State Watch

South Dakota judge strikes down voter-passed marijuana measure

A South Dakota judge ruled Monday that a voter-approved constitutional amendment that would have legalized marijuana for recreational use was in itself unconstitutional, setting up a legal fight that pits Gov. Kristi Noem (R) against her own constituents.

Circuit Court Judge Christina Klinger, a Noem appointee in Pierre, ruled that Amendment A violated a rule that ballot measures cover only a single subject, and that it does not conform to rules governing the way the state constitution is amended.

South Dakota voters approved Amendment A, which legalized recreational marijuana, by a 54 percent to 46 percent margin in November. A separate ballot measure legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes passed with almost 70 percent support.

South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, the group that backed the amendment, pledged to appeal Monday’s court ruling.

“We disagree with the ruling and we are preparing our appeal to the South Dakota Supreme Court,” the group said in a statement.

State Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg’s (R) office, which is responsible for defending state laws, said Tuesday it was still reviewing the judge’s decision. Ravnsborg’s attorneys had moved to throw the challenge out earlier this year.

Noem, a first-term Republican governor who allied herself closely with former President Trump, has been unusually focused on opposing the amendment, both during the campaign and after voters gave the measure their approval. The lawsuit challenging the amendment’s validity was brought by the head of the state Highway Patrol, who sued at Noem’s request, and the sheriff of Pennington County.

Noem has authorized the state to pay for court costs incurred by Highway Patrol Superintendent Rick Miller. She issued an executive order last month that explicitly gave Miller the legal standing to sue.

Were Amendment A to take effect in July, South Dakota would be the 15th state to legalize marijuana for recreational use, and the 13th state in which voters themselves approved a ballot measure to make marijuana legal.

Tags ballot measure Donald Trump Kristi Noem Marijuana South Dakota state constitution
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