South Dakota voters legalized hashish, however state politicians have not


In November 2020, about 54 percent of South Dakota voters approved legalization for adult cannabis, while nearly 70 percent voted for medical marijuana legalization.

Why are state officials fighting tooth and nail to undermine these voices?

In the three months since the election, South Dakota Governor Krista Noem has actively supported and sought to overturn the adult-use measure. And state lawmakers are working to delay mandatory implementation of the Medical Marijuana Act.

Bring the legalization of adult use to justice

These efforts began shortly after the November election when a South Dakota county sheriff and the superintendent of the state highway patrol filed a lawsuit to remove Constitutional Amendment A, the adult legalization measure. Their lawsuit alleges that Amendment A required a revision of the state constitution and not a change to a single subject for approval. At the time, local media reports reported that Governor Noem approved the use of state funds to cover legal costs caused by the lawsuit.

In early February, a judge in the state’s Sixth Court agreed to remove the adult legalization measure. Despite “the strong presumption of constitutionality and the presumption in favor of validity and adequacy given to Amendment A, the violation of the one-subject rule … is so clear and tangible that there is no reasonable doubt that Amendment A is invalid is. “

Delay in the implementation of medical marijuana

Two days later, on February 10, Governor Noem said her state would postpone the schedule for Measure 26 (IM 26), the measure initiated to legalize medical marijuana. While IM 26 was due to go into effect next July, “it will take additional time to get this program up and running well,” she said in a press release – the plan would take a year to implement.

“Our Senate leadership fully supports efforts to properly implement a functioning medical marijuana program,” added South Dakota Senate Majority Leader Gary Cammack in this press release. “We will comply with the wishes of the voters.

The voters knew what they were voting for

But cannabis advocates in South Dakota and beyond have been quick to criticize these changes. In a statement emailed to Leafly, Brendan Johnson, sponsor of Amendment A and attorney for South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, said his group was preparing an appeal to the South Dakota Supreme Court.

Matthew Schweich, assistant director of the Marijuana Policy Project, expects the state Supreme Court to reintroduce Amendment A and reverse the lower court’s decision. He also described Governor Noem’s positions on cannabis as “bad politics and bad politics”.

“It is difficult to understand Governor Noem’s political calculation about marijuana,” Schweich told Leafly. “Your constituents in South Dakota clearly support marijuana reform, as the election day results show. Support for marijuana legalization has grown steadily over the past two decades, and now stands at 68% according to the latest Gallup poll. In addition, nearly half of all Republicans support legalization. It is also worth noting that the use of taxpayer’s money to fund a lawsuit to overturn the will of the people is unpopular across the political spectrum. “

Governor Noem has been a long-time opponent of legalization

Noem was a vocal opponent of legalizing marijuana and hemp in her state. “I don’t think anyone has a smarter censer,” she was quoted as saying in January. “I think it’s a bad decision for the state of South Dakota.”

Michael Card, associate professor of political science at the University of South Dakota, believes Noem’s opposition to cannabis “could also be a nod to the South Dakota law and order mentality.” He also referred to a 2019 report by the Prison Policy Initiative that found South Dakota had the highest incarceration rate per capita of any state in the Union.

State activists ready to push back

For his part, Card believes Noem may activate opposition from two groups, the first being parents, family members, and patients suffering from diseases that medical marijuana could alleviate. The second group, he told Leafly, are South Dakota citizens “who may not support the marijuana initiatives, but they believe [state] Legislation continues to limit their ability to change what they consider to be bad laws. “

“Disrespectful to the people of South Dakota”

Card’s belief is backed by a statement from MelissaMentele, campaign manager for IM 26 and executive director of Medical Marijuana Advocacy New Approach South Dakota. In an email to Leafly, Mentele made an exception to the proposed delay in government regulations on medical cannabis.

“A year of delay in the introduction of medical marijuana would be harmful to patients and disrespectful to the people of South Dakota,” she said. “Measure 26 was fully reviewed and approved by over 70% of South Dakota voters on election day. The guideline is detailed and based on best practices from other countries. Legislators don’t need to change Measure 26 – we’ve put together a full directive. All they have to do is respect the will of the people and allow the state to run a medical marijuana patient qualification program. “

Mentele also noted that Measure 26 was not a new bill. It has been widely discussed and “legally sponsored twice in its entirety” in South Dakota over the past six years.

Voters in South Dakota, she continued, “knew what they were voting for and an overwhelming majority supported it in the election. 70% of [South Dakota] In November, voters checked patient access for July 1, 2021 with yes. The implementation delay is a mistake. “

Not the first time politicians have ignored voters

Card noted that there are signs that history is repeating itself in South Dakota when it comes to the controversies surrounding cannabis legalization. In 2016, he said, an attempt to regulate the rules for funding state campaigns was passed by voters in South Dakota. However, the legislature lifted this measure and promised to remedy the technical deficiencies mentioned by its leadership. “But they never got around to it in the eyes of the citizens,” noted Card. “Many have written letters to the editors saying that the state government has thwarted the will of the people and sees this [marijuana legalization challenge] as another example. “

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

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Beth Edmonds