Nov 24, 2021 - Politics & Policy

South Dakota Supreme Court rules against marijuana legalization

A photo from a marijuana processing facility in Medway, Massachusetts, from October 2021.

A photo from a marijuana processing facility in Medway, Mass., from Oct. 2021. Photo: Erin Clark/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The South Dakota Supreme Court Wednesday upheld a lower court's nullification of a voter-approved amendment to the state's constitution that would have legalized recreational marijuana use.

Why it matters: The ruling is a major setback for legalization advocates and a victory for Gov. Kristi Noem (R), who strongly opposes recreational marijuana use in the state.

About 54% of voters in South Dakota last year approved an amendment that would have legalized recreational marijuana and required the state legislature to pass laws that would legalize the use of medical marijuana and the sale of hemp.

  • Noem, who is running for re-election, opposed the amendment during the campaign and took steps to block it after a majority of voters approved of it.
  • Lawyers representing state law enforcement officials sued on behalf of Noem's administration to have the amendment overturned, arguing that it violated the state's requirement that constitutional amendments deal with only one subject.
  • A lower court sided with the law enforcement officials in February and overturned the amendment, according to the Sioux Falls Argus Leader.

The big picture: South Dakota voters approved a separate ballot measure last November that also legalized medical marijuana, and it went unchallenged and was supported by state lawmakers last month.

  • The ruling comes despite a major recent shift in the acceptance of recreational marijuana use in the U.S., according to Gallup.
  • New Mexico in April became the 16th state to legalize the drug.
  • Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) introduced legislation last week to federally decriminalize and tax marijuana, though it would defer to states on matters of regulation.

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