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South Dakota's top court rules against recreational marijuana

· Nov 24, 2021
The Supreme Court of South Dakota ruled Wednesday that "Amendment A" violated a requirement of the state's constitution that any amendment deal with only a single subject. Chief Justice ...

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An amendment to South Dakota's constitution approved by voters last year legalizing recreational marijuana has been struck down by the state's top court.

The Supreme Court of South Dakota ruled Wednesday that "Amendment A" violated a requirement of the state's constitution that any amendment deal with only a single subject.

Chief Justice Steven Jensen, writing for the 4-1 majority, said Amendment A legalized recreational marijuana while also directing the legislature to pass laws governing medical marijuana and hemp cultivation, which he said were separate subjects.

"South Dakota is a place where the rule of law and our Constitution matter, and that's what today's decision is about," South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, who opposed the amendment, said in a statement.

South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, an advocacy group that intervened in the case to defend the amendment after the state's attorney general declined to do so, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

South Dakotans approved Amendment A in the November 2020 general election by a margin of 54% to 46%.

South Dakota Highway Patrol Superintendent Rick Miller and Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom sued to invalidate the amendment. Noem publicly supported the challenge.

Judge Christina Klinger of the 6th Judicial Circuit, Hughes County, in February found that the amendment violated the single-subject rule, prompting South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws to appeal.

Supreme Court Justice Scott Myren dissented Wednesday, saying the amendment was a "comprehensive plan" directed to a "single purpose."

The matter is Thom v. Barnett, In the Matter of Election Contest as to Amendment A, South Dakota Supreme Court, No. 29546.

For South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws: Brendan Johnson and Timothy Billion of Robins Kaplan

For Miller: Matthew McCaulley, Lisa Prostrollo and Christopher Sommers of the Redstone Law Firm

For Thom: Robert Morris of the Morris Law Firm