November 26, 2020
Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom and South Dakota Highway Patrol Superintendent Rick Miller filed a lawsuit against marijuana legalization in South Dakota on Friday. With this lawsuit, they challenge the constitutional amendment recently passed by South Dakota voters that established the legalization of recreational marijuana in the state.
South Dakota Constitutional Amendment A was passed on November 3, 2020, after an initiative was filed by Brendan Johnson, former U.S. Attorney for the District of South Dakota. This Amendment established the legalization of recreational marijuana for individuals 21 years old and older. Under this measure, individuals are allowed to possess or distribute up to one ounce of marijuana. Also, individuals who live in a jurisdiction with no licensed retail stores can grow up to three marijuana plants in a private residence in a locked space –though not more than six marijuana plants could be kept in one residence at a time. The amendment also established provisions to regulate and tax recreational marijuana.
Even though most voters approved the measure, some have spoken out against it; most notably Gov. Kristi Noem issued a statement calling the measures taken on the ballot “the wrong choice” for South Dakota.
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About the lawsuit
The South Dakota Marijuana Legalization Lawsuit covers two issues:
- The state’s one-subject rule, which South Dakota voters approved two years ago.
- The amendments and revisions article of the South Dakota Constitution.
According to the plaintiffs, the one-subject rule was violated as Amendment A has five subjects –namely: legalizing marijuana, regulating recreational marijuana, taxing marijuana, requiring the legislature to pass laws on hemp, and ensuring access to medical marijuana-. Furthermore, the plaintiffs argue that the amendment itself does not amend the South Dakota constitution, but rather, revises it.
The lawsuit argues that because the amendment inserts a new section into the constitution, it should be considered a revision to the constitution, which can only be done placed on the ballot through a state convention, something that hasn’t been done since statehood.
“Our constitutional amendment procedure is very straightforward (…) In this case, the group bringing Amendment A unconstitutionally abused the initiative process. We’re confident that the courts will safeguard the South Dakota Constitution and the rule of law” – Rick Miller
On Friday, Gov. Kristi Noem released a statement in which she expressed that she looks forward to the court addressing the “serious constitutional concerns laid out in this lawsuit”.
On the other hand, the group “South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws” –the group that proposed Amendment A and got it on the 2020 ballot- posted a statement on its Facebook page, saying it was ready to oppose the court challenges:
“We are prepared to defend Amendment A against this lawsuit. Our opponents should accept defeat instead of trying to overturn the will of the people,” the group stated. “Amendment A was carefully drafted, fully vetted, and approved by a strong majority of South Dakota voters this year.” – South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws
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