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SD circuit judge overturns Amendment A

Originally written February 2021

In November 2020, South Dakotans voted to pass Amendment A, which allows residents to grow, manufacture and sell cannabis as a licensed business. However; that all changed on February 8, when Circuit Judge Christina Klinger overturned it.

Judge Klinger was appointed by Gov. Kristi L Noem (R), who opposes the amendment, sighting that it is unconstitutional under state law. Noem has also spoken out publicly against Amendment A and started efforts to challenge it in court immediately after it was passed. Unlike other states that have legalized medical and recreational cannabis, Amendment A would make South Dakota the first state in the country to legalize cannabis on a medical and recreational level, simultaneously.

If Amendment A is not appealed, the move by Judge Klinger will likely create a ripple effect on how state officials across the country react to new cannabis-related laws. This could also give way to overturning laws that are currently implemented in states where cannabis is legal, which would lead to angry residents, long legal battles, and a decrease in tax dollars in states that may need it. Additionally, those who have started the process of obtaining licensing for cannabis businesses could be put to a halt, or businesses that already have licenses could potentially have them taken away, resulting in hardworking Americans, losing money, and valuable time.

Advocacy organizations such as The Last Prisoner Project, whose goal is to free those who have been incarcerated for non-violent cannabis charges or who have been wrongly charged with a crime strictly related to cannabis, could also be affected by this. If the amendment is overturned, they may be limited to what platforms they can use to promote their cause and may face new legal restrictions.

Overall, the actions taken could be portrayed as ignoring the will of state residents due to a political figure’s personal views on cannabis. Further, because the use, cultivation, and sale of cannabis is still federally illegal, it could come across as ok to not give the people what they fairly and rightfully, voted for—going against the idea of American democracy.

There is a ray of sunshine in all this grey though, in December 2020 the House of Representatives voted to pass a bill that would decriminalize cannabis at a federal level, although we don’t know how it will play out in the senate when the time comes. While Federal officials seem to be taking small steps to make legalization across the country a reality, for now, we must hold on to hope that overturning new and existing cannabis laws at the state level will not become the norm.


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