Judge shoots down South Dakota’s adult-use cannabis amendment

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In a major blow to South Dakota’s nascent legal marijuana industry, a circuit court judge ruled that a voter-approved constitutional amendment legalizing adult-use cannabis is unconstitutional.

The recreational marijuana amendment would have gone into effect July 1, but that won’t happen unless the judge’s order is overturned on appeal, the Associated Press reported.

Former U.S. District Attorney Brendan Johnson, who sponsored the legalization measure – known as Amendment A – and defended it in court, said backers were preparing an appeal to South Dakota’s Supreme Court.

Johnson said the challenge was simply an effort to overturn the will of the voters.

South Dakota voters in November approved Amendment A with 54.2% in favor as well as Measure 26, which legalized medical marijuana, with 53.5% in favor.

Those victories made South Dakota the first state to simultaneously legalize adult-use and medical marijuana markets.

But three weeks later, opponents – backed by anti-marijuana Gov. Kristi Noem – filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Amendment A.

Sixth Circuit Judge Christina Klinger’s ruling does not affect the state’s medical marijuana law.

The judge ruled that Amendment A violated a South Dakota law that requires amendments seeking to change the state’s constitution to focus on only one subject. The law also prohibits broad changes to state government.

Klinger, who was appointed as a circuit court judge by Noem in 2019, said the amendment overstepped the executive and legislative branches of government by giving the state’s Department of Revenue power to oversee recreational marijuana, according to the Associated Press.