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South Dakota Supreme Court Nullifies Marijuana Legalization

The South Dakota Supreme Court on Wednesday overruled the people of the state. The court nullified legal adult-use weed.


The South Dakota Supreme Court on Wednesday morning overruled the people of the state, reports NPR. The court upheld a lower court’s ruling that nullified a voter-passed amendment to the state constitution that would have legalized adult recreational marijuana use.

The ruling ended months of speculation about how the issue would play out with the five justices on the court.

The court’s opinion upheld Circuit Court Judge Christine Klinger’s decision from earlier this year. That decision found Constitutional Amendment A violated a provision requiring amendments to the Constitution encompass only one subject. Klinger also ruled that Amendment A was so expansive that it should have been ratified by a convention rather than as an amendment.

Governor Kristi Noem Did This.

Republican Gov. Kristi Noem is the one responsible for playing politics with the will of the people. Noem instigated the legal fight to strike down the amendment passed by voters in November. The conservative governor opposed marijuana legalization as a supposed social ill. But her administration’s arguments in court disingenuously centered on obscure technical violations to the state constitution.

South Dakota’s high court sided with those arguments in a 4-1 decision. Justices ruled that the measure — Amendment A — would have violated the state’s requirement that constitutional amendments deal with just one subject. The court declined to rule on whether the amendment should have been addressed by a convention, reports the Argus Leader.

“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 the majority opinion. The majority opinion found recreational Cannabis, medical marijuana and hemp each to be separate issues.

So Much For 54% Of South Dakota Voters…

About 54% of South Dakota voters had approved the constitutional amendment last year. But weed-phobic Highway Patrol Superintendent Col. Rick Miller did the dirty work, suing on Noem’s behalf. Fellow pot-hater Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom also joined the lawsuit.

The high court ruled that the law enforcement officers did not have standing to sue. But because Governor Noem authorized Miller’s suit, they treated it as if the governor brought the lawsuit herself. 

Noem, barely able to conceal her glee at denying the people the legal weed for which they voted, praised the decision. She claimed that it would not change how she implements a separate, voter-passed law that legalizes medical marijuana. That law has already taken effect.

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

‘Extremely Flawed’; ‘Disrepectful’

The Court agreed that the first 13 sections of Amendment A were a single subject devoted to legalizing marijuana. But it oddly declined to separate that by finding those sections legal and the rest of the amendment unconstitutional. 

Matthew Schweich, campaign director for South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, called the ruling “extremely flawed.” According to Schweich, it is reliant on “a disrespectful assumption that South Dakota voters were intellectually incapable of understanding the initiative.”

“The court has rejected common sense and instead used a far-fetched legal theory to overturn a law passed by over 225,000 South Dakota voters based on no logical or evidentiary support,” Schweich said.

Cannabis legalization is not going away in South Dakota anytime soon. Activists are trying to bring recreational marijuana back to voters next year through a ballot measure that would instruct the Legislature to legalize it. The Legislature is also considering legalizing pot for adults in the upcoming legislative session.

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