South Dakota Judge Strikes Down Voter-Approved Legalization Initiative

A South Dakota judge has ruled in favor of nullifying a cannabis legalization constitutional amendment approved by voters last November. The dispute moves next to the state’s Supreme Court.

Full story after the jump.

South Dakota Circuit Judge Christina Klinger ruled on Monday that the state’s constitutional amendment approved by voters in November to legalize adult-use cannabis actually violates a 2018 law that prohibits constitutional amendments from dealing with multiple issues, CBS News reports.

Klinger wrote in her ruling that the amendment “is a revision as it has far-reaching effects on the basic nature of South Dakota’s governmental system,” as it would affect business licensing, taxation, and agriculture with new hemp/cannabis industries.

“Legalization opponents cannot succeed in the court of public opinion or at the ballot box. Thus, they are now seeking to overturn election results in a desperate attempt to maintain cannabis prohibition. Whether or not one supports marijuana legalization, Americans should be outraged at these overtly undemocratic tactics.” — NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano, in a statement

Brendan Johnson, a South Dakota attorney who helped sponsor and defend the legalization amendment, said the group is planning to appeal the decision to the state’s Supreme Court.

The legalization bid, despite passing with 54 percent voter approval on Election Day, was soon challenged by law enforcement officers Highway Patrol Superintendent Col. Rick Miller and Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom. According to the report, Miller’s objection was likely made on behalf of Gov. Kristi Noem, who also vocally opposed the legalization efforts.

The amendment was also vocally opposed by Gov. Kristi Noem (R), who appointed Klinger as a circuit judge in 2019. “Today’s decision protects and safeguards our constitution,” she said in a statement. “I’m confident that South Dakota Supreme Court, if asked to weigh in as well, will come to the same conclusion.”

The voter-backed amendment was set to take effect on July 1. That will no longer happen, however, unless Klinger’s decision is overturned by a higher court.

The latest Gallup poll found that 68 percent of Americans — more than ever — support ending the prohibition of cannabis.

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