South Dakota Supreme Court Hears Cannabis Legalization Challenge

South Dakota’s Supreme Court heard arguments on Wednesday in the governor’s legal challenge to the cannabis legalization ballot initiative that was approved by last November.

Full story after the jump.

The South Dakota Supreme Court on Wednesday heard arguments in the challenge to the voter-approved ballot initiative to legalize cannabis in the state, the Brookings Register reports. Lawyers for the plaintiffs argued that the constitutional amendment violates the one-subject rule for initiatives and that the law would elevate the Department of Revenue to a fourth branch of government.

In February, Circuit Judge Christina Klinger ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and struck down the reforms. She determined that the amendment violated the one-issue clause associated with constitutional amendment ballot questions.

Brendan Johnson, an attorney representing South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws and other activists, argued that while the amendment was lengthy, it does not mean it should be disqualified and that there would be “damage” if the state’s highest court “literally throws out 417,000 votes that were cast on a piece of legislation,” according to the report.

Republican Gov. Kristi Noem has strongly opposed the measure and in an executive order issued in January the governor said the plaintiffs in the case – Highway Patrol Superintendent Col. Rick Miller and Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom – had standing to sue over the amendment because they are acting on her behalf.

Noem applauded the Circuit Court decision as protecting and safeguarding the state’s constitution. She said at the time she was “confident” the state’s highest court would come to the same conclusion as the lower court.

The measure was approved by 54% of voters during the 2020 General Election and was set to take effect July 1. The court could strike down the law entirely, keep parts of it that it determines do not violate the one-issue rule, or dismiss the lawsuit outright.

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