South Dakota Cannabis Advocates Seek to Determine Whether State Officials Broke Law By Speaking Out Against Legalization Measure

Cannabis advocates in South Dakota have opened an inquiry into whether state officials spoke in an official capacity to campaign against medical cannabis legalization, which is a violation of state law.

Full story after the jump.

The organization that backed South Dakota’s successful medical cannabis initiative in 2020 has sent information requests to government offices throughout the state to determine whether officials have broken state law by publicly opposing this year’s adult-use legalization measure, Dakota News Now reports.  

Per South Dakota law, government officials may speak their opinion on candidates or ballot measures in their personal capacity but may not influence the election of a candidate or ballot initiative in their official capacity, and doing so is a felony.

New Approach SD Deputy Director Ned Horsted told Dakota News Now that the decision to press forward with the inquiry was “not an easy one.”  

“We’re submitting public record requests for multiple political officials throughout the state. And the decision to do that was not easy. These are dealing with a very powerful political establishment in the state. … However, under the South Dakota Constitution, they are not allowed to use taxpayer resources to promote a political agenda.” — Horsted to Dakota News Now 

The group sent information requests to Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken, Minnehaha County Sheriff Mike Milstead, Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender, and others. The trio was among the speakers at a press conference in Sioux Falls last week. New Approach’s information requests are seeking to see whether those officials were “on the clock” and speaking in their official capacity or using government social media pages while speaking against the ballot measure. 

The group’s inquiries were also sent to the Pennington County Sheriff’s Department; the Minnehaha County Sheriff’s Department; the Box Elder Police Department; Rapid City Mayor Steven Allender; Protecting South Dakota Kids; the South Dakota Police Chiefs Association; Jim Kinyon, executive director of Catholic Social Services; the South Dakota Catholic Association; Next Generation Leadership PAC Administrators; State Rep. Fred Deutsch; Sen. John Thune and his staff; Gov. Kristi Noem, her staff, and her Communications Director Ian Fury; State Rep. Scott Odenbach; State Rep. Doug Barthel; State Rep. Carl Perry; State Sen. Al Novstrup; Lt. Gov. Larry Rhoden and his staff; State Sen. Helene Duhamel; Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom; Minnehaha County Sheriff Mike Milstead; Pennington County Sheriff’s Deputy Brian Mueller; Meade County Sheriff-Elect Pat West; and Rapid City Assistant Police Chief Scott Sitz. 

TenHaken told Dakota News Now that he is protected under the First Amendment and allowed to voice his opinion on ballot measures.    

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