Many states are trending toward legalizing the use of marijuana medically, and sometimes even recreationally, but South Dakota is not among them.
Twenty-five states and Washington, D.C., allow medical marijuana use; four of those states - Washington, Oregon, Colorado and Alaska - also permit recreational use for persons older than 21. In contrast, South Dakota has some of the country's stricter marijuana laws, and tourists in possession of the drug could find themselves in serious trouble.
According to state law, no person may knowingly possess marijuana or use it for medical or recreational purposes. The degree of the crime is based on the amount in possession. The classifications are as follows:
- possessing 2 ounces or less is a Class 1 misdemeanor;
- possessing more than 2 ounces but less than ½ pound is a Class 6 felony;
- possessing more than ½ pound but less than 1 pound is a Class 5 felony;
- possessing 1 to 10 pounds is a Class 4 felony;
- and possessing more than 10 pounds is a Class 3 felony.
According to state law, these offenses result in criminal penalties ranging from a $2,000 to $30,000 fine and one to 15 years imprisonment, in addition to a civil penalty not to exceed $10,000. Also, according to FindLaw.com, "any marijuana found in a car leads to a 90-day suspended license for a first offense." Cultivating and selling marijuana are crimes with even harsher penalties.
Because of South Dakota's proximity to states where marijuana is legal even for recreational use, law enforcement agencies anticipated running into more travelers in possession of the drug, according to a 2012 article in the Rapid City Journal. They did not, however, intend to ease up on the enforcement of state law in those incidents.
Whether someone plans to attend the popular Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, visit Mount Rushmore or even just pass through South Dakota on a trip, they should pay attention to state law. A good time can be easily ruined when it leads to hefty fines and possible incarceration.