SD high court hears arguments on adult-use cannabis measure

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The South Dakota Supreme Court is moving closer to deciding whether to uphold a voter-approved amendment to legalize adult-use cannabis after hearing oral arguments Wednesday that focused on narrow constitutional issues.

Gov. Kristi Noem, an anti-marijuana Republican, is trying to strike down recreational marijuana after voters in her state approved legalization by a 54%-46% margin at the ballot box in November.

Noem instructed a state highway patrol superintendent to challenge the measure in court, claiming in part that it violated a rule that constitutional amendments must deal only with one subject.

A lower court did strike down the adult-use legalization measure in February, but marijuana advocates appealed to the state Supreme Court.

Brendan Johnson, an attorney representing South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, argued during the Supreme Court hearing that striking down the ballot measure would set a bad precedent for the citizen referendum process, the Associated Press reported.

Matt Schweich, deputy director of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), which led the ballot campaign in South Dakota, has characterized efforts to thwart marijuana legalization by citizen referendum as an assault on democratic norms.

“Politicians no longer feel they have to uphold the vote,” Schweich said.

The Supreme Court hasn’t said when it will make a decision on the case. The adult-use marijuana law was scheduled to go into effect July 1, before the lower court nullified it.

Noem also has tried unsuccessfully to delay a medical marijuana program that voters legalized in November.

But that process is moving forward, with the state Health Department working to implement a patient registry and licensing system later this year.

According to the Rapid City Journal, the state said it will consider proposals by vendors interested in developing the web-based systems.