An ultraconservative state judge appointed by Republican Gov. Kristi Noem recently blocked a voter-approved constitutional amendment legalizing marijuana in the US state of South Dakota.
To Circuit Judge Christina Klinger, the fact that most South Dakota voters approved a constitutional amendment that legalizes and establishes a regulatory framework for recreational marijuana isn’t enough to signify the veracity of the vote.
During the November 2020 election, voters in South Dakota approved Constitutional Amendment A with a landslide vote to legalize recreational marijuana.
Exit data from the vote shows that over 54 percent backed the measure, over 45 percent opposing it.
Despite the binding nature of Amendment A, far-right lawmakers and governmental leaders like Gov. Noem voiced their concern that the proposed amendment was unconstitutional and placed South Dakotans in a ‘dangerous’ position.
Law enforcement leaders against marijuana legalization also opposed Amendment A, citing extremely misguided beliefs that decriminalizing and regulating the recreational substance is more dangerous than perpetuating it as a controlled substance.
Evidence from across the U.S., especially in states such as Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, show declines in drug-related offenses and an increase in tax revenues and compliance.
Klinger was appointed by Gov. Kristi Noem, a Republican, in 2019.
Noem also publicly opposed Amendment A on the campaign trail. Klinger ruled on February 8 that the measure is unconstitutional for various reasons.
“Amendment A is unconstitutional as it includes multiple subjects in violation of [the South Dakota constitution] and it is, therefore, void and has no effect,” Klinger wrote in her ruling provided by South Dakota courts. “Furthermore, Amendment A is a revision as it has far-reaching effects on the basic nature of South Dakota’s governmental system.”
To the proponents of Amendment A, Klinger’s decision is purely political. Klinger, a registered Republican appointed by Gov. Noem, who herself is a die-hard Trump ally, likely oppose marijuana legalization efforts for a variety of debunked reasons.
Regardless, Amendment A advocates intend to appeal Klinger’s decision before the South Dakota Supreme Court. The appeals process will take several weeks.
“We disagree with the ruling, and we are preparing our appeal to the South Dakota Supreme Court,” said South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, a group that championed Amendment A, in a statement posted to Facebook.
Noem, as mentioned, is categorically opposed to marijuana legalization. She had the audacity to call her state’s own voters that they made “the wrong decision” when they voted to approve Amendment A. Citing concerns of political overreach, South Dakota Attorney General Jason R. Ravnsborg’s office openly opposed the lawsuit looking to invalidate the legal passage of Amendment A.
“The State respectfully requests that Contestants’ Election Contest be denied in all respects and that Contestants’ Complaint be dismissed with prejudice, in its entirety, and judgment be entered in favor of the state,” reads a filing authored by Assistant Attorney General Grant Flynn in December of 2020, via the Argus Leader.
Most U.S. states have approved the use of marijuana for limited medicinal purposes.
Over a dozen states have legalized recreational marijuana and decriminalized the common consumption of marijuana.
Once marijuana is legalized in South Dakota, consumers can use flora and cannabis-derived vapor products.
The South Dakota Supreme Court is expected to rule in favor of Amendment A’s proponents and invalidate Klinger’s ruling and unethical judicial activism (my opinion).