South Dakota Supreme Court rejects voter approved cannabis legalisation

1st December 2021

In November 202o, voters in South Dakota became the first in the US to simultaneously approve the legislation of both medical and recreational cannabis. However, the voter initiative, known as Amendment A, which would introduce a legal recreational market in the state was later overturned.

South Dakota’s Supreme Court has now issued a ruling which upholds the judge’s decision to block the initiative. However, this does not spell the end of the mission for legalisation in the state.

Both advocates and opponents of a legal recreational market have been hard at work over the last year to ensure that their ambitions are accomplished. The Adult-Use Marijuana Subcommittee was formed by lawmakers who met between June and October this year to hear from stakeholders across law enforcement, local government, and the cannabis industry, with a focus on learning lessons from the existing industry in Colorado.

Lawmakers have revealed that they would rather legalisation be introduced through the legislature as opposed to a ballot measure. This would give lawmakers the opportunity to craft the measures and conditions of legalisation themselves.

One Rep. Mike Derby told Cannabis Wire: “We’d rather craft it ourselves. And I think that we can have hearings and run it through the legislative process.

“I do respect, obviously, the will of the voters and that’s what I said after [the measure] was passed. And of course, that has now been struck down so we kind of have to go back to the other routes,” he continued.

However, it remains uncertain whether South Dakota’s state governor Kristi Noem would sign any legalisation bill into law – whether it was introduced through a ballot measure or by the legislature. It was Gov. Neom who pushed for the lawsuit which overturned the voter initiative this year, marking the first time a state governor has successfully led efforts to reject a voter-approved cannabis measure.

In response, the advocacy group South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, which led the campaign for recreational cannabis legalisation in 2020, has introduced a number of potential ballot initiatives to achieve the final goal.

The group has been gathering signatures for these initiatives since their filing in July. Despite the recent ruling from the Supreme Court, advocates for legalisation are confident that lawmakers will push for the eventual legalisation of recreational cannabis.

In a statement to Cannabis Wire, Ned Horsted, the executive director of the Cannabis Industry Association of South Dakota, said: “In general, voters are very upset that they did not get what they approved, and the legislature will be under tremendous pressure to fix this.

“Furthermore, smart politicians will realize that running against legalization after it was approved by voters is a really bad idea, especially when they very likely could be on the same ballot as a new legalization ballot initiative in 2022.”

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