South Dakota Supreme Court snuffs 2020 marijuana legalization amendment

December 22, 2021

The South Dakota Supreme Court ruled in November that an initiated amendment to legalize recreational marijuana was unconstitutional. Voters had approved the measure in 2020.

Justices upheld an earlier Circuit Court ruling that the amendment violated the state’s single-subject rule, itself a constitutional amendment approved by South Dakotans in 2018 (“No proposed amendment may embrace more than one subject.”) Justices said the proposal covered at least three distinct subject areas: legalization and regulation of marijuana, access to medical marijuana, and the cultivation and sale of hemp.

In November 2020, 54.1 percent of voters approved the amendment. A lawsuit seeking to overturn it was filed two weeks later by a county sheriff and a highway patrol officer. A separate voter-approved initiated measure legalizing medical marijuana in South Dakota still stands.

Elsewhere in the Midwest in 2021, bills to legalize and regulate medical marijuana were introduced in Indiana (HB 1026), Kansas (HB 2184 and SB 92) and Nebraska (LB 474) but failed to advance. A proposed constitutional amendment to legalize recreational marijuana also stalled in Nebraska’s Unicameral Legislature.

Two Midwestern states currently legalize the recreational use of marijuana: Illinois, as the result of a bill approved by the General Assembly and signed by the governor in 2019; and Michigan, because of a voter-approved ballot proposal from 2018. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, total tax collections on marijuana sales had reached $563 million in Illinois as of late 2021. One-quarter of the revenue from excise taxes has been earmarked for a grant program that targets help for communities harmed by violence, excessive incarceration and economic disinvestment. Money also is going to local governments, the state’s general fund and budget stabilization fund, and substance abuse programs.