South Dakota Lawmakers, Activists Try To Work Around Gov. Kristi Noem’s Opposition to Marijuana Legalization – Opinion

A bipartisan pack of South Dakota lawmakers this week voted to advance a marijuana legalization bill that they hope will satisfy citizens who already voted for it. But the lawmakers also have to deal with a veto threat from a resistant Republican Gov. Kristi Noem.

In November 2020, South Dakota voters passed two marijuana legalization initiatives—one for recreational use, known as Measure A, and one for medical use. Noem opposed marijuana legalization, and rather than accept the will of 54 percent of the voters, she challenged it in court (at the voters’ expense). A South Dakota 6th Circuit Court judge ruled that the initiative was flawed because it tackled more than one issue (legalization apparently being separate from taxing and regulating) and didn’t follow the proper methods for revising the state’s constitution. The medical marijuana initiative remains intact and is slowly being implemented.

Supporters of Measure A are working to get the state’s supreme court to weigh in. In the meantime, state lawmakers are hoping to use their own powers to give voters what they want.

Noem, however, continues to resist legalization efforts. Overruling her potential veto would require two-thirds support from both houses, so lawmakers are looking for a compromise that will either garner Noem’s support or that of enough of their peers to survive a veto.

On Tuesday, lawmakers in the legislature’s Adult-Use Marijuana Subcommittee voted 8-2 to advance a draft bill legalizing marijuana use. It will allow citizens over the age of 21 to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and up to eight grams of marijuana concentrate. The bill does not permit consuming marijuana in public, and deviating from the proposition passed by voters last year, it will not allow for growing at home or any outdoor grow operations. It would also replace the state’s medical marijuana program and has sections to legalize medical marijuana use for those under 21.

KELOLAND News notes that Noem still might not be on board. Her spokesperson told the media outlet, “Governor Noem is not supportive of legalizing recreational marijuana.” The bill has a lengthy path ahead, and would be sent to lawmakers to formally vote on next year.

In the meantime, activists who support legalization are mobilizing yet again for another ballot initiative. They’ve gotten clearance to begin circulating a petition for what they hope will be a 2022 vote. Pushed by South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws (SDBML), this new measure is a statutory change, not a constitutional amendment, in the hopes of avoiding a repeat of the legal problems with Measure A.

The new initiative would, similar to the bill lawmakers are pushing, legalize possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for those over 21. Unlike that bill, however, it would allow individuals to grow up to six plants at home, but only if they lived in an area with no marijuana retailers.

Supporters have until November to collect nearly 17,000 signatures. Marijuana Moment reports that SDBML wanted to wait until the South Dakota Supreme Court ruled on the validity of Measure A before they went through with this effort, but since a decision hasn’t happened, organizers felt they had to take action. If the Court ultimately rules that Measure A is constitutional, SDBML has said they’ll drop their new ballot initiative.