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Two Groups Looking To Act On Recreational Pot Await Court Decision

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Supreme Court
South Dakota State Supreme Court

Two groups that want to regulate adult-use marijuana continue to wait for the South Dakota Supreme Court to rule on the law that legalizes recreational pot. 

That law was supposed to go into effect on July first but has been held up in the courts since late last year.  

A legislative subcommittee focused on writing recreational marijuana legislation has cancelled its upcoming meeting in early August. 

Republican Hugh Bartels is the chair of the subcommittee. He says the group could go down two different paths depending on the court ruling.  

“I think we need to move forward on it so that marijuana becomes a safe product for our residents,” Bartels says. “I think that’s the key to it. They’ve spoken that they really want recreational, or adult-use, marijuana in an election. So, we need to make sure we can make it as safe as possible for them. Getting it out of the black market is really the way to do that. So, we need to clean up our code and provide a safe mechanism to get it to the public.” 

Bartels says that’s important in the event marijuana is decriminalized at the federal level. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has announced draft legislation that allows states to choose whether to legalize the drug. 

“If South Dakota can do it the Senate should be able to do it,” Schumer says. 

President Joe Biden does not support the measure. 

Even if the South Dakota legislative subcommittee drafts a bill providing the details needed to legalize cannabis, its path through the state legislature is uncertain. Because of that, the group that originally backed the two marijuana laws that were passed last November has four draft ballot questions ready to circulate. 

Matthew Schweich is the deputy director for the Marijuana Policy Project, which works with South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws. He says they’re filing those initiatives in case the state Supreme Court considers Amendment A unconstitutional.  

“If that’s the case we want the option of going back to the ballot next year,” Schweich says. “The reason we filed four different cannabis legalization initiatives is to accommodate different potential rulings from the court. The details of that ruling could dictate the type of initiative we’re able to move forward with.” 

Schweich says they’re also filing a petition to remove the rule that could declare marijuana legalization unconstitutional. In 2018 a provision was added to the state constitution that says a constitutional amendment can only have address one subject. Opponents of Amendment A say it violates that rule, which is getting its first test in the courts.