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Judge Stands in the Way of State's Push to Legalize Marijuana

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A South Dakota judge on Monday struck down a voter-approved constitutional amendment that legalized recreational marijuana after Gov. Kristi Noem’s administration challenged it.

Circuit Judge Christina Klinger ruled the measure approved by voters in November violated the state’s requirement that constitutional amendments deal with just one subject and would have created broad changes to state government.

“Amendment A is a revision as it has far-reaching effects on the basic nature of South Dakota’s governmental system,” she wrote in her ruling.

Brendan Johnson, who sponsored the amendment and represented a pro-marijuana group in court, said it was preparing an appeal to South Dakota’s Supreme Court.

Two law enforcement officers, Highway Patrol Superintendent Col. Rick Miller and Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom, sued to block legalization by challenging its constitutionality.

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South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem had opposed the effort to legalize pot.

Klinger was appointed as a circuit court judge by Noem in 2019.

“Today’s decision protects and safeguards our constitution,” Noem said in a statement.

“I’m confident that South Dakota Supreme Court, if asked to weigh in as well, will come to the same conclusion.”

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Thom also praised the ruling, saying it “solidifies the protections” of a 2018 constitutional amendment that required further amendments to stick to one subject.

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.

About 54 percent of voters approved recreational marijuana in November.

Possessing small amounts of marijuana would have become legal on July 1, but that will not happen unless a higher court overturns the ruling.

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South Dakota was among four states last year to approve recreational marijuana, along with New Jersey, Arizona and Montana.

Fifteen states and the District of Columbia have done so.

The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.

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