Judge rules recreational marijuana amendment violates South Dakota’s constitution

Published: Feb. 8, 2021 at 5:22 PM CST
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PIERRE, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - A Hughes County judge has ruled that a voter-approved measure legalizing recreational marijuana in South Dakota is unconstitutional.

Circuit court judge Christina Klinger issued her ruling on Amendment A Monday afternoon, though the legal battle over the issue is set to continue in the South Dakota Supreme Court.

The challenge against the amendment was brought forth by Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom and South Dakota Highway Patrol Superintendent Rick Miller on behalf of Gov. Kristi Noem.

“I am pleased with the court’s decision today, though I realize that the Supreme Court will likely have the opportunity to address our constitutional concerns on their merits,” Miller said, via a press release.

The plaintiffs contended the amendment violated the constitution in two ways. They argued the measure takes on multiple subjects, which violates the state’s one-subject rule requiring amendments to address only one topic at a time. Second, they argued the measure was a revision rather than an amendment - essentially, a fundamental change to the constitution - which would require a three-fourths vote from both chambers of the state legislature.

Noem, who has long been an opponent of marijuana issued a statement in support of Monday’s ruling.

“Today’s decision protects and safeguards our constitution,” Noem said. “I’m confident the South Dakota Supreme Court, if asked to weigh in as well, will come to the same conclusion.”

Marijuana supporters argued the lawsuit was an effort to overturn the will of the people.

“We disagree with the ruling and we are preparing our appeal to the South Dakota Supreme Court,” said amendment supporter and Former U.S. Attorney for South Dakota Brendan Johnson.

Voters approved Amendment A in the November election, with just over 54% of ballots cast in favor of the measure. It was scheduled to take effect July 1.

The case was expected to be appealed to the state Supreme Court regardless of the circuit court’s ruling.

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