South Dakota Supreme Court overturns marijuana legalization amendment

A growing number of states have moved to legalize cannabis for recreational usage. Yet, in a surprise move, South Dakota’s Supreme Court recently opted to buck the trend.

According to The Seattle Times, the state’s highest court ruled on Wednesday that a pro-marijuana constitutional amendment passed earlier this month was invalid.

South Dakota constitutional amendments are required to address only one issue at a time, and in a 5–1 decision, justices argued that the November ballot initiative violated that rule.

Gov. Noem welcomes ruling

“It is clear that Amendment A contains provisions embracing at least three separate subjects, each with distinct objects or purposes,” Chief Justice Steven Jensen wrote in his majority decision.

Jensen said that recreational marijuana, medical marijuana, and hemp are all separate issues, with each requiring its own specific amendments, according to South Dakota state laws.

The lone voice of dissent was Justice Scott Myren, who said that the amendment amounted to a single comprehensive plan and that the will of voters should be respected. “This bold experiment in citizen-led direct democracy began before statehood,” he said.

Amendment challenged

The amendment had been challenged in court by Highway Patrol Superintendent Col. Rick Miller, along with Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom.

While the court found that the lawmen lack standing to sue on their own, Miller’s suit was permitted because he had been ordered to bring it by Gov. Kristi Noem (R).

Noem, who has been a vocal opponent of marijuana legalization, released a statement via Twitter in which she praised the lawsuit’s outcome.

“We do things right”

“South Dakota is a place where the rule of law and our Constitution matter, and that’s what today’s decision is about,” Noem declared. “We do things right — and how we do things — matters just as much as what we are doing.”

The governor followed those words up with another tweet in which she clarified that the decision would not impact the medical marijuana program passed last year in the state.

In contrast, marijuana legalization advocate Matthew Schweich was disappointed in the outcome, with the Times quoting him as describing the ruling as “a setback.” However, he added that “we have the will of the people on our side.”

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