Justices on the South Dakota Supreme Court will hear oral arguments today in a legal challenge to the state’s voter-initiated marijuana legalization measure: Constitutional Amendment A. Fifty-four percent of voters decided in favor of the ballot measure on Election Day 2020.
Nonetheless, litigation filed on behalf of Republican Gov. Kristi Noem shortly following the election has sought to nullify the vote. In February, Judge Christina Klinger of the state’s Sixth Judicial Circuit Court ruled in favor of the litigation -- opining that the measure violates state requirements that ballot measures not encompass more than one topic. The judge also ruled that the measure revises rather than amends the state’s Constitution, and therefore should not be permitted to move forward. Proponents of Amendment A, South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, have appealed the ruling to the state’s Supreme Court.
Commenting on the litigation, NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “Legalization opponents cannot succeed in the court of public opinion or at the ballot box. Thus, they are now seeking to overturn election results after the fact. Whether or not one supports marijuana legalization, Americans should be outraged at these overtly undemocratic tactics.”
Legalization proponents also backed another successful ballot initiative in November, Measure 26, legalizing medical marijuana access to qualified South Dakota patients. The results of that vote have not been legally challenged and the court’s ruling does not impact that law’s implementation.
Gov. Noem publicly opposed both Amendment A as well as Measure 26.
NORML advocates for changes in public policy so that the responsible possession and use of marijuana by adults is no longer subject to criminal penalties. NORML further advocates for a regulated commercial cannabis market so that activities involving the for-profit production and retail sale of cannabis and cannabis products are safe, transparent, consumer-friendly, and are subject to state and/or local licensure. Finally, NORML advocates for additional changes in legal and regulatory policies so that those who use marijuana responsibly no longer face either social stigma or workplace discrimination, and so that those with past criminal records for marijuana-related violations have the opportunity to have their records automatically expunged.