South Dakota cops use tax to kill marijuana legalization


Last month, South Dakota became one of the youngest states to legalize both the medicinal and recreational use of marijuana. 54 percent of the state’s voters approved Constitutional Amendment A, the legalization measure for adults, while a medical marijuana initiative was approved by nearly 70 percent. Both measures are expected to come into force on July 1, 2021.

Despite these significant victories, a faction within the state government is trying to overturn these results and revive the cannabis ban in Mount Rushmore state.

In late November, Kevin Thom, the sheriff of Pennington County, South Dakota’s second largest county, and State Highway Patrol Superintendent Rick Miller filed a lawsuit to delete Amendment A.

And, according to the Rapid City Journal, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, a vocal opponent of the legalization of cannabis and hemp in her state, approved the use of state funds to cover Miller’s legal fees.

I’m trying the Nebraska trick

There is a clause in the South Dakota Constitution that says that a constitutional amendment can only affect one subject. In their lawsuit, Thom and Miller argue that Amendment A “proposed a drastic overhaul of the Constitution that could not be proposed … because it raised several issues and purported to add an entirely new article to the Constitution”.

The lawsuit alleges that Amendment A “was initially void and could never be ratified by South Dakota voters”.

A similar strategy on a subject was successfully used by the Prohibitionists in Nebraska to vote that state’s medical legalization move on November 3, 2020. In this case, the Nebraska State Supreme Court invalidated the proposed amendment to the state’s Constitution in early September, almost two months before the vote.


Nebraska Supreme Court Kills 2020 Medical Marijuana Initiative

“Respect the will of the voters”

Some proponents of Amendment A do not tolerate this obvious attempt at political craftsmanship. A group of South Dakotans, including Randy Seiler, chairman of the state’s Democratic Party, as well as a former US attorney, retired Sioux Falls police officer, and several others, filed their own lawsuit, demanding that Miller and Thom’s lawsuit be dismissed.

“I think the will of the electorate and the will of the people should be respected,” Seiler told Rapid City Journal on December 4th. “That is the literal definition of a democracy in which the people vote and the wishes and decisions of the voters.” is respected. “

Too late to submit that type of challenge?

Michael Card, associate professor of political science at the University of South Dakota, says the South Dakotans who are paying attention to the controversy are mostly expressing frustration over the political struggle.

Questions are being asked about who is behind Thom and Miller’s lawsuit, he told Leafly. “As expected,” Card said, “law enforcement in many places believe that marijuana and other drugs are a gateway to worse drugs.”

And while many South Dakotans may not have the patience to resolve a constitutional dispute, “there is a vocal minority who, for lack of a better expression, think that we are really messed up as a state because we are paying on both ends of this lawsuit. “

Card doubts the law enforcement action will be successful. “This is actually an election complaint,” he noted. “The time to file this complaint, our Assistant Attorney General noted, was before it even got on the ballot papers, before the ballots were printed.”

Governor Noem: Some form of legalization will remain

In her December 8th annual state budget address, Governor Noem referred several times to the cannabis controversy in South Dakota. She pointed to a budgetary ruling that she believed was “related to disappointing votes on marijuana in the ballot box this year,” while highlighting the “significant safety and regulatory costs” associated with both medical and recreational voting are.

In states where adult cannabis has been legalized, tax revenues from marijuana sales have far outweighed the relatively low cost of regulating the industry. In Colorado, more than $ 1 billion Tax revenue has been generated since the first cannabis stores opened in 2014.

While Noem supported the lawsuit against Constitutional Amendment A, she also admitted that legalization of cannabis in some form would take place in her state. She said the South Dakota government needs to “envision two courses of action – one way forward in both recreation and medicine, and a second way forward in medicine only”.

Bruce Kennedy

Bruce Kennedy is an award-winning reporter, editor, and producer based out of Colorado. He has been in the legal cannabis industry since 2010.

Show article by Bruce Kennedy

By submitting this form, you will receive messages and promotional emails from Leafly and agree to Leafly’s Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. You can unsubscribe from Leafly email messages at any time.


Beth Edmonds