More than half of South Dakotans disapprove of the way Republican Gov. Kristi Noem responded to voters approving cannabis legalization in the state, according to a recent poll conducted by Mason Dixon and sponsored by South Dakota News Watch and the University of South Dakota’s Chiesman Center. The poll found 33.4% of respondents strongly disapproved of how she handled the legalization issue — by forcing the issue to the state Supreme Court — with 17.8 % somewhat disapproving, a total of 51.2%.
Another 39.2% somewhat or strongly approved of the governor’s action which effectively overrode the will of 54% of voters who had approved the reforms during the 2020 General Election. Noem had backed a lawsuit by Highway Patrol Superintendent Col. Rick Miller and Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom and issued an executive order claiming that the adult-use cannabis ballot initiative approved by voters “was not proper and violated the procedures set forth in the South Dakota Constitution.”
Ultimately, the state Supreme Court ruled that the initiative contained more than one subject and ran afoul of the state’s constitution. Voters also approved a medical cannabis program during the election, which was not challenged in the lawsuit. State officials, including Noem, are working toward implementing the medical cannabis program.
Despite her opposition to broad legalization, Noem has indicated she might support a bill to decriminalize cannabis use and possession in South Dakota, but in March, her Chief of Staff Tony Venhuizen said she has yet to endorse any decriminalization legislation.
The group behind the successful 2020 initiative, South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, is planning to put the issue to voters, again, in 2022.
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