PIERRE S.D. — A county judge in South Dakota has thrown out a constitutional amendment approved by voters last fall to legalize recreational marijuana.
Sixth Circuit Judge Christina Klinger, based in Pierre, S.D., has issued a written ruling finding that Amendment A, which wrote legal protections for medicinal and recreational marijuana into the state's constitution in November, violated a requirement that amendments address only a single subject, reports the Associated Press.
The lead attorney representing the legalization effort told Forum News Service on Monday, Feb. 8, they'd appeal the decision.
"We disagree with the ruling and we are preparing our appeal to the South Dakota Supreme Court," Brendan Johnson said via email.
Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom, who'd filed a legal challenge to Amendment A in court, issued a statement in support of Klinger's ruling.
"The judge's ruling today solidifies the protections that were sought in the previous passing of Amendment Z," said Thom, referencing an amendment passed just two years ago that established a "single-subject" rule for constitutional amendments. "It is an honor to defend our state constitution."
Col. Rick Miller, South Dakota Highway Patrol superintendent, also signaled his support for Monday's ruling, acknowledging that the state's highest court "will likely have the opportunity to address" Amendment A soon.
In November, South Dakota voters approved legalizing pot via the state's constitution by a 54% margin. After Thom and Miller filed a lawsuit in Hughes County decrying the legalization effort process, Gov. Kristi Noem, a Republican who has opposed legalization efforts, issued an executive order saying she authorized the lawsuits on behalf of the state, setting up a peculiar legal battle.
Last month in a Pierre courtroom, attorneys representing the Attorney General's Office, and the legalization effort, squared off in defense of the amendment's approval against attorneys that were ostensibly defending law enforcement officers and the state's governor.
Klinger, who was appointed to the bench in 2019 by Noem, had promised a written decision from the bench, and an appeal was long expected, regardless of how she decided.
FNS has reached out for the judge's written opinion and will update this story as more information becomes available.