The Supreme Court in South Dakota is yet to deliver its verdict on the constitutionality of a voter-approved initiative to legalize recreational cannabis, nearly six months since the justices heard the arguments.
Constitutional Amendment A, which would legalize the possession and sale of adult-use marijuana in South Dakota for adults 21 and older, garnered 54 percent of the vote on Election Day last year.
However, marijuana reform advocates’ celebrations were cut short after a lawsuit to overturn the result was filed with the support of Gov. Kristi Noem’s administration. In February, a circuit court judge sided with the plaintiffs in determining that the ballot initiative broke the state’s one subject rule for constitutional amendments. The group behind the ballot initiative – South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws (SDBML) – then filed an appeal with the Supreme Court, and the hearing was held in April.
If enacted into law, Constitutional Amendment A would have taken effect on July 1 this year.
Still, there’s no indication that a ruling from the Supreme Court justices is due anytime soon. And so long as this is the case, the circuit court judge’s ruling will remain in effect.
In the meantime, SDBML has launched a new ballot initiative to legalize recreational cannabis in case the Supreme Court decides to uphold the circuit court judge’s ruling. While the group has been given the go ahead to start petitioning in order to qualify the measure for the ballot, it faces an uphill battle to collect the required 17,000 signatures before the November 7 deadline. The activist’s proposal would legalize cannabis possession, sales and home cultivation.
Meanwhile, a legislative subcommittee is seeking to break the impasse between the courts, the governor’s office and marijuana reform advocates by introducing “compromise” legislation that would allow low-level cannabis possession but prohibit cultivation for both commercial and personal uses. A spokesperson for the governor, however, said Noem would still oppose such a measure.
On Election Day last year, South Dakotan voters also approved a separate ballot measure to legalize medical marijuana in the state. The regulator has until May 15, 2022, to start issuing registration cards to qualifying patients.
The medical marijuana initiative also faces some opposition in South Dakota’s legislature, with the Marijuana Interim Study Committee recently recommending that lawmakers remove provisions in the measure that would allow qualifying patients to grow their own marijuana at home.