SIOUX FALLS, SD (AP) – The Supreme Court of South Dakota on Wednesday upheld a lower court ruling that annulled a voter-passed amendment to the state constitution that would have legalized the use of marijuana for recreational use.
Governor Kristi Noem launched the legal battle to repeal the amendment passed by voters in November. Although the Republican governor was opposed to legalizing marijuana as a social disease, her administration’s arguments in court were centered on technical violations of the state constitution.
The High Court agreed with these arguments in a 4-1 decision and ruled that the measure – Amendment A – would have violated the state’s requirement that constitutional amendments deal with only one issue.
“It is clear that Amendment No A contains provisions covering at least three separate topics, each with separate objects or purposes,” Chief Justice Steven Jensen wrote in the majority agreement, which found recreational marijuana, medical marijuana and hemp separately to be separate topics.
About 54% of voters had approved the constitutional amendment last year. But Highway Patrol Superintendent Colonel Rick Miller sued on Noam’s behalf. Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom also joined the trial. The Supreme Court ruled that the law enforcement authorities did not have the power to sue, but because Noem approved Miller’s case, they treated it as if Noem had brought the case himself.
The state Supreme Court ruling upheld a district court judge’s ruling in February. Proponents of pot-legalization appealed, arguing that the Supreme Court should reject the legal challenge because it overturned the will of the electorate and dampened their future ability to pass laws through the ballot box.
Pot legalization is not disappearing in South Dakota. Marijuana advocates are trying to bring recreational marijuana back to voters next year through a ballot that will instruct lawmakers to legalize it. Legislators are also considering legalizing pots for adults in the upcoming legislative session.
A separate, voter-passed law legalizing medical marijuana has already come into force in South Dakota.
Marijuana has been widely accepted in the United States, where a Gallup poll last year showed that 68% of Americans were in favor of legalization. South Dakota was among four states that month to approve recreational marijuana, along with New Jersey, Arizona and Montana. Fifteen states and the District of Columbia have done so.
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