South Dakota Supreme Court strikes down voter-passed recreational marijuana initiative

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(KCAU) — After more than seven months of deliberating, South Dakota’s Supreme Court upheld an earlier ruling that found Amendment A to be unconstitutional saying the initiative violated the state’s “single subject” requirement.

Voters passed Amendment A by a count of 54% to 46% more than a year ago, making South Dakota the 15th state to legalize recreational marijuana and the fourth state to do so that same night in the 2020 election.

Since then, the law has been under constant scrutiny from those that oppose it. On November 23, 2020, the state announced a lawsuit brought forward by Highway Patrol Superintendent Col. Rick Miller on Governor Kristi Noem’s behalf, who publicly opposed the initiative before it was even voted on.

The initial argument in the suit was that the constitutional amendment included more than one issue which violates South Dakota’s “single subject” rule when amending their state constitution.

Wednesday, the state’s Supreme Court upheld that logic with Chief Justice Steven Jensen writing in the majority opinion:

“It is clear that Amendment A contains provisions embracing at least three separate subjects, each with distinct objects or purposes.”

But Matthew Schweich, campaign director of South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, said that just isn’t true.

“Almost the entirety of Amendment A was about recreational cannabis legalization. There were two sentences that mentioned medical marijuana and hemp and to say that voters couldn’t understand or make a decision on this initiative is something that we just fundamentally disagree with,” said Schweich.

A South Dakota resident agrees with Schweich that voters could easily distinguish differences between Initiated Measure 26 that legalized medical marijuana and this Amendment A.

“I would say that they definitely knew what they were voting for, the fact that it passed says South Dakota wants to be a part of it,” said Riley Sullivan.

Now, Schweich and his organization look to turn the page as they continue to petition, but South Dakota lawmakers have drafted their own bill to legalize “adult-use” marijuana that’s been approved by subcommittee. However, that bill has a long way before it could possibly become law.

“We’re going to be pushing very hard for the legislature to pass a recreational bill in the upcoming session. That’s the best outcome because that means the will of the people is respected and effectuated in the quickest amount of time,” said Schweich.

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