South Dakota recreational pot amendment challenged

National News

FILE – This April 6, 2018, file photo shows the leaves of a marijuana plant inside Ultra Health’s cultivation greenhouse in Bernalillo, N.M. New Mexico would legalize recreational marijuana sales without exceptions for dissenting cities and counties under a rebooted proposal form legislators that emphasizes small business opportunities and ready access to pot for 80,000 current medical cannabis patients. Legalization for the first time enjoys the full throttled support of second-year Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who set up a volunteer commission last year to vet health and public safety concerns about recreational cannabis and on Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020, pitched the benefits of the pot economy to a gathering business leaders. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan, File)

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) – A new lawsuit claims Amendment A that changed the South Dakota Constitution to legalize and tax recreational marijuana should be declared invalid.

The challenge was filed Friday afternoon in Hughes County circuit court.

The 11-page complaint claims Amendment A actually was a constitutional revision that should have required a constitutional convention and a special election.

It also argues that the measure violated the state constitution’s single-subject rule that voters adopted in 2016.

The plaintiffs are Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom and South Dakota Highway Patrol Superintendent Rick Miller. The attorneys are Matthew McCaulley of Sioux Falls and Robert Morris of Belle Fourche.

Voters approved the recreational-marijuana measure 225,260 to 190,477 in the November 3 general election. It has 15 sections and 55 subsections. The lawsuit claims at least five separate subjects are addressed in it. Only a court can overrule a constitutional amendment.

Says the suit, “While an amendment can be used to change existing articles of the Constitution, it cannot be used to adopt an entirely new article, effectuate broad changes to the Constitution, or make changes that address entirely new subjects not encompassed within pre-existing articles.”

Voters also approved legalizing medical marijuana in the November 3 election. The medical-marijuana change is a new state law, which the Legislature could amend or repeal altogether.

The leader of the Amendment A effort was Brendan Johnson, a former U.S. attorney from Sioux Falls who is a son of Democratic former U.S. Senator Tim Johnson.

Republican Governor Kristi Noem appeared in a TV ad opposing Amendment A. McCaulley’s firm has state government contracts with the Noem administration. Her chief of staff, Tony Venhuizen, previously worked for McCaulley’s Redstone firm.

The suit asks for a judge to declare the votes null and void and to declare Amendment A not-certified.

In a statement issued from the Pennington County sheriff’s office, Thom said, “The South Dakota Constitution is the foundation for our government and any attempt to modify it should not be taken lightly. I respect the voice of the voters in South Dakota, however, in this case I believe the process was flawed and done improperly, due to no fault of the voters.”

“Our constitutional amendment procedure is very straightforward,” Colonel Miller said in the same statement. “In this case, the group bringing Amendment A unconstitutionally abused the initiative process. We’re confident that the courts will safeguard the South Dakota Constitution and the rule of law.”

Summoned to defend the suit is state Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg, who is under investigation for driving the car that killed a Hyde County pedestrian along US 14.

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