Governor’s side agrees future of South Dakota initiated measures is at stake in marijuana case

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Backers of the constitutional amendment legalizing marijuana for adults 21 and older in South Dakota took an illegal short-cut and sought changes that go beyond the single subject that the state constitution allows, the private attorneys representing the governor’s side contend in their latest court papers.

“This case presents the question whether private lawyers and special interest groups can use the
initiative process to circumvent the requirements set forth in the South Dakota Constitution,” Lisa Prostrollo wrote in the governor-side’s filing Wednesday night to the South Dakota Supreme Court. “These requirements exist for a reason—to ensure that our State’s founding document cannot be revised without the transparency, public input, and legislative debate that accompanies a constitutional convention.”

Prostrollo said Amendment A’s sponsor and supporters ignored some parts of the state constitution when they placed the measure on the November 3 election ballot. “In doing so, they defied the self-imposed limitations voters have placed on their power of initiative through the Constitution and deprived them of the opportunity to have Amendment A properly scrutinized and presented for ratification,” she wrote.

Governor Kristi Noem’s side continues to argue that Amendment A is a constitutional revision rather than an amendment and should have gone to a state constitutional convention that would have decided whether the changes belonged on the ballot. They also continue to say Amendment A contained more than the one subject allowed per ballot measure by another part of the state constitution.

The arguments came in response to the appeal filed two weeks ago by attorneys Brendan Johnson and Timothy Billion. Johnson, a former U.S. attorney for the district of South Dakota, sponsored the measure.

The Supreme Court hasn’t set a date at this point for oral arguments. A state circuit judge in February agreed with the governor’s side and declared the election result invalid. The case doesn’t address Initiated Measure 26 that legalized medical marijuana for anyone in South Dakota. That law takes effect July 1 unless legislators extend the process.

Prostrollo disagreed with a long list of points raised by Billion and Johnson, including their claim that some of Amendment A should be allowed to stand even if some of it violated the state constitution.

“Amendment A was void at its inception and should never have been submitted to the voters, meaning the entire amendment is invalid—including the severability clause. Simply put, Amendment A cannot be severed because there is nothing to sever. It was submitted to the voters in violation of Article XXIII and is therefore void in its entirety,” she wrote.

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