South Dakota Marijuana Ballot Initiatives

Justices on the state’s highest court have yet to render a decision regarding the fate of Constitutional Amendment A, the voter-approved initiative which sought to legalize the adult-use possession and sale of cannabis.

Fifty-four percent of South Dakota voters decided on Election Day in favor of the ballot measure. However, shortly following the vote, Republican Gov. Kristi Noem facilitated litigation seeking to strike down the law as unconstitutional. In February, Judge Christina Klinger of the state’s Sixth Judicial Circuit Court ruled in favor of the challenge — opining that the measure violated state requirements that ballot measures not encompass more than one topic. Advocates of the measure challenged her ruling and the Supreme Court heard arguments in the case in April.

Nearly six months later, justices have yet to render an opinion in the case. The circuit court’s ruling striking down the law remains in effect until the Supreme Court either upholds or reverses the lower court’s decision. Amendment A was supposed to become law on July 1.

In the interim, members of a legislative subcommittee have recently moved to advance ‘compromise’ legislation that seeks to legalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana by adults, but prohibits outdoor commercial cultivation operations as well as personal home grows. A spokesperson for the Governor indicates that she remains opposed to any efforts to legalize cannabis for adult-use purposes.

Separately, local activists are gathering signatures to once again place the question before voters next year. Their proposed measure would permit marijuana possession, sales, and home cultivation (under certain circumstances). Advocates have said that they will drop their 2022 initiative campaign if the Supreme Court elects to uphold Amendment A.

Voters last November also decided in favor of a separate ballot measure (Measure 26) regulating medical marijuana access by qualified patients. That program is not yet up and running and regulators are not expected to begin issuing identification cards to patients until May 15, 2022. Most recently, subcommittee members of the Marijuana Interim Study Committee recommended rescinding provisions in the law permitting patients the option to home-cultivate cannabis.

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