South Dakota Judge Overturns Voter Decision to Legalise Cannabis

10th February 2021

The USA’s November elections introduced one of the most memorable steps forward for cannabis reforms in the country as five more states opted to legalise the drug. However, a Circuit Judge in the state of South Dakota has overturned the voter initiative to legalise recreational cannabis.

In a ruling that claimed the proposed legislation change was unconstitutional, Circuit Judge Christina Klinger has rejected the results of the vote which was held alongside the 2020 Presidential election. The amendment which would have seen the legalisation of cannabis was overturned on Monday.

Amendment A was set to kickstart the creation of a legal cannabis market which would have in South Dakota after 54% of voters supported the motion. However, the recent ruling will halt any plans to move ahead with legalisation.

According to Newsweek, the decision was based on a lawsuit introduced by Pennington County sheriff Kevin Thom and South Dakota Highway Patrol superintendent Rick Miller, following the vote in November.

It has been reported that Miller acted on behalf of the Republican Governor Kristi Noem, who also appointed Judge Klinger in 2019. Newsweek reports that Governor Noem instructed Mr Miller to file the lawsuit in an executive order issued on 8 January.

In a statement referring to the ruling, Judge Klinger wrote:

“Amendment A is unconstitutional as it includes multiple subjects in violation of [the South Dakota constitution] and it is therefore void and has no effect.”

Ms Klinger continued: “Furthermore, Amendment A is a revision as it has far-reaching effects on the basic nature of South Dakota’s governmental system.”

“The failure to submit Amendment A through the proper constitutional process voids the amendment and it has no effect.”

Governor Noem has revealed her confidence that the decision will not be overturned should an appeal be made to the Supreme Court, writing in a statement on Monday:

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

Nonetheless, campaign group South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws has also revealed in a statement that they plan to challenge the ruling.

While the decision to overturn recreational legalisation in South Dakota will come as a blow to many, the ruling will have no impact on the planned introduction of medical cannabis legalisation from July 1, 2021. In November 2020, South Dakota became the first state to simultaneously legalise both medical and recreational cannabis.

An additional three states – Arizona, Montana, New Jersey – also opted to legalise recreational cannabis in the November 2020 elections.

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