Court Overturns People’s Vote On Marijuana

( South Dakota’s Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling last Wednesday that nullified an amendment passed by the voters that would have legalized marijuana in the state.

Governor Kristi Noem worked to instigate the new legal fight over the amendment, which was passed in November. Noem has stated publicly that she opposes the legalization of recreational marijuana use, but members of her administration argue that this isn’t the reason why it is being taken to court. Instead, there is an issue of technical violations to the South Dakota state constitution.

The state’s Supreme Court sided with their arguments in a 4-1 vote, ruling that “Amendment A” would be violate a rule that requires constitutional amendments to deal with only one subject at a time.

Chief Justice Steven Jensen said that it’s clear that Amendment A contains at least three different provisions on different matters, with each one having their own distinct objects or purposes.

Some 54% of voters in the state approved of the amendment last year, but a lawsuit was filed by Highway Patrol Superintendent Col. Rick Miller on behalf of Governor Noem. Pennington’s County Sheriff, Kevin Thom, later joined the suit but the Supreme Court ruled that the two law enforcement officers couldn’t sue on behalf of Noem.

So, what does this mean for now?

Well, marijuana remains illegal. However, should there be another vote on a provision that deals entirely with marijuana and not with other subject matters, there’s no reason why it may not pass again.

Marijuana advocates in the state have slammed the decision, even though it is a technical legal point, as “extremely flawed.” Matthew Schweich, who represents South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, said that the ruling was relying on a “disrespectful assumption that South Dakota voters were intellectually incapable of understanding the initiative.”

But, that isn’t true.

If the voters of South Dakota wish to legalize marijuana, it will first need to be put to a vote that doesn’t violate the constitution.