South Dakota Judge Harshes Legal Weed Amendment's Mellow
A South Dakota judge on Monday overturned the state's recent constitutional amendment to legalize recreational marijuana, finding the amendment was itself unconstitutional. Amendment A had passed in November's election with 54 percent of the vote, but Circuit Court Judge Christina Klinger ruled the amendment violated the state's constitution on fairly abstruse grounds, which we'll get to shortly; the backers of the amendment have already announced they intend to appeal the case to the state Supreme Court. The lawsuit against the law was supported by South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, who arranged to have the state pay the legal fees for one of the plaintiffs, South Dakota Highway Patrol Superintendent Rick Miller. Noem was absolutely dead set against the very idea of South Dakotans passing anything to the left.
The grounds for overturning the amendment involved a lot of weirdness in South Dakota's laws around how its constitution can be amended. For one thing, the state argued that the amendment ran afoul of a 2018 constitutional amendment requiring that amendments only address a single subject. CBS News 'splains that one:
In her ruling, Klinger said that marijuana legalization would have touched on business licensing, taxation and hemp cultivation. The amendment would have given the state's Department of Revenue power to administer recreational marijuana, but Klinger ruled that by doing so, it overstepped the authority of the executive and legislative branches of government.
So apparently that logic means supporters would have to get voters to pass multiple amendments, but even that approach might be precluded by the other reason the state offered for throwing out Amendment A. Supposedly, it's just plain UNPOSSIBLE for voters to amend the state constitution to legalize recreational marijuana, due to the nature of the constitutional change that would be. Hang onto your whereases, kids, for this explanation from the Sioux Falls Argus Leader:
[The plaintiffs] argued last month that because Amendment A added an entirely new section to the state Constitution instead of modifying an existing one, it should be considered a revision, not an amendment.
Revisions to the constitution require a convention of state delegates before being placed on the ballot and cannot be done through the petition process, like initiated measures and amendments.
"The failure to submit Amendment A through the proper constitutional process voids the amendment and it has no effect," Klinger said.
Translation: If you want to legalize weed in South Dakota, you have to hold a freaking constitutional convention, not just have a bunch of stoners sign your petitions and then get a clear majority of the vote in a statewide election. Good luck with that, ya filthy hippies!
Noem said she was super-happy with the decision by Klinger, who by coincidence is a Noem appointee to the bench. In a statement, Noem said the ruling "protects and safeguards our constitution," adding, "I'm confident that South Dakota Supreme Court, if asked to weigh in as well, will come to the same conclusion."
South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, the group that organized the amendment's passage, argues that the amendment really does only address one subject, and that it was passed under the proper constitutional procedure, so no, YOU'RE the constitutional convention.
South Dakota, we'd note, has quite the history of not being terribly happy with big changes, like back in 2015, when GOP leaders predicted the US Supreme Court's decision legalizing gay marriage would lead to all sorts of horrors. Kristi Noem, at the time a member of Congress, disagreed with that ruling, insisting that marriage is only between a man and a woman, although what with it being a federal court decision, it doesn't look like she tried to enlist the state's top cop to try to reverse it.
Also, speaking of the South Dakota Highway Patrol, Yr Editrix would just like to remind you that they're a fine bunch to object to a weed law as unconstitutional, given how they illegally searched the Wonkebago following a bogus traffic stop in 2016, in complete contravention of a 2014 Supreme Court decision that reached the same conclusion as a decision 10 years earlier by ... oh, who's this? The South Dakota Supreme Court. Yes she is still mad, wouldn't you be mad too?
We'll also note that, following that SCOTUS gay marriage decision, the state of South Dakota was not swallowed up by demons because it now had to let same-sex couples marry. Now that we think of it, we suppose some fundagelicals may be claiming that's why God has punished the state with some of the nation's worst rates of COVID-19.
The final word on Amendment A won't come until the state supreme court reviews the case; in the meantime, be of good cheer, because Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) said yesterday that even with impeachment, the drive to confirm Joe Biden's Cabinet, and the urgent work on a coronavirus stimulus package, he believes this is the year that Congress will finally get rid of the federal ban on cannabis, and won't that make South Dakota mad?
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.