South Dakota has been in the headlines for both good and bad reasons since they legalized cannabis with a ballot measure during the last election cycle. While they did manage to legalize, anti-cannabis forces immediately sued over this decision. Now, the case comes before the South Dakota Supreme Court.
Amendment A, which legalized adult-use cannabis and set up a regulated market, and Measure 26, which legalized medical cannabis, both became legal last year, however the recreational part of the measure has still not been able to move forward. While the state’s residents approved medical cannabis at a 70 percent margin, Amendment A was approved at a much smaller margin of 54 percent.
For a brief time, the state rejoiced about the new laws, but that excitement was crushed pretty quickly. Following the election, South Dakota Highway Patrol Superintendent Col. Rick Miller and Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom sued to block the amendment on a technicality. They claim that the measure violates the constitution by trying to set up a framework for legalization and also legalizing, rolling two things into one.
Even worse, Republican Gov. Kristi Noem, who is conservative when it comes to cannabis, came out in support of the suit, claiming she never wanted to see cannabis legalized.
“I was personally opposed to these measures and firmly believe they’re the wrong choice for South Dakota’s communities,” Noem wrote in a statement. “We need to be finding ways to strengthen our families, and I think we’re taking a step backward in that effort. I’m also very disappointed that we will be growing state government by millions of dollars in costs to public safety and to set up this new regulatory system.”
South Dakota Supreme Court to Hear Arguments For Both Sides
Now, both sides have the chance to argue their points before the South Dakota Supreme Court. On the morning of April 28, plaintiffs Thom and Miller will give their oral arguments as to why cannabis should not have been made legal, and supporters of Amendment A, represented by South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, will explain why legal cannabis should be a part of South Dakota’s future. Noem is covering the expenses of the plaintiffs, giving them what some complain is an unfair advantage.
In a statement from the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), deputy director Paul Armentano criticized the attempt to deny the will of the voters.
“Legalization opponents cannot succeed in the court of public opinion or at the ballot box,” said National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) Deputy Director Paul Armentano when the opposition to the newly passed law first began. “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.”
As of now, Measure 26 is safe and set to go into effect July 1, so the state will at least have a medical cannabis program in its near future. However, the fate of recreational cannabis in South Dakota is still very much up in the air. Advocates for cannabis legalization can only hope that the South Dakota Supreme Court will rule in favor of it.