South Dakota balloteers begin cannabis push

South Dakota-based MetaBank shut down hundreds of ATMs in Colorado cannabis store after warning that the machines violated federal law.
Progressives, frustrated at gridlock in Washington and at the state level, are planning a major ballot-initiative push across the country as they bank on a likely favorable electorate in 2016. Pro-pot legalization advocates have acknowledged a ballot strategy that will place a greater emphasis on 2016, given the significant demographic differences between midterm and presidential years. Younger and minority voters made up a much larger percentage of the voter pool in 2012 than last month’s midterms, when the GOP took back the Senate and made major gains in the House during the lowest-turnout election since 1942. “Especially with gridlock in Washington and fewer states likely to address the minimum wage legislatively, we’re likely to see more ballot initiatives on the minimum wage and other progressive economic issues,” said Paul Sonn, general counsel at the National Employment Law Project, an organization that has supported minimum wage pushes across the U.S. Following minimum-wage-hike victories in four red states on Nov. 4 — South Dakota, Nebraska, Alaska and Arkansas — Sonn said he is confident there will be many more progressive economic ballot propositions two years from now than there were this past cycle. While he said it is too early to know which would be in play, Sonn identified states like Missouri, Colorado, Maine, New Mexico and Washington state as places where gridlock makes ballot initiatives an appealing option.
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In 2012, there were 2,297 arrests for marijuana possession in South Dakota, and 127 arrests for marijuana sales. Possession of just a small amount of marijuana in the state carries a potential penalty of a year in jail and a $1,000 fine! Even more alarmingly, a recent study by the American Civil Liberties Union found that South Dakota was among the top 10 states with the largest racial disparities in marijuana possession arrest rates. Despite people of all races using marijuana at nearly identical rates, blacks in South Dakota are nearly 4.8 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession. [Marijuana Policy Project]

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