Amendment A ruling rests on earlier decisions that justices made in South Dakota, California

South Dakota Marijuana

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The specific case names weren’t mentioned. But the argument Wednesday in the South Dakota Supreme Court, over the validity of a constitutional amendment legalizing marijuana use by people 21 and older, focused on a handful of previous court decisions.

Circuit Judge Christina Klinger ruled on February 8, 2021, that Amendment A was invalid, three months after voters approved it 225,260 to 190,477 in the November 3 election. Here’s a look at some of those past decisions that formed the basis for her conclusion.

State ex rel. Evans v. Riiff (1950) — Judge Klinger cited these key sentences as support for her decision that Governor Kristi Noem through state Highway Patrol Superintendent Rick Miller correctly waited until after the election to challenge Amendment A:

We think the delay incident to the requirement that litigation await the completion ofthe
legislative process is a small price to pay to maintain inviolate the vital principle of
separation of powers peculiar to our polity. And we think this principle of
noninterference is as valid when applied to lawmaking at the highest level, viz., in the
constitutional field, and in lawmaking under the powers reserved to the people by the
initiative provisions ofthe constitution, as it is when applied to the functions ofthe
legislature.

Baker v. Atkinson (2001) — Judge Klinger cited this South Dakota case in her finding that Amendment A covered two subjects — marijuana and hemp — and therefore violated the state constitution’s Article XXIII requiring a single subject.

McFadden v. Jordan (1948) — The circuit judge turned to this California decision because South Dakota hasn’t yet defined a constitutional ‘amendment’ or a constitutional ‘revision,’ even though the state constitution uses those words and sets specific processes to be followed for each.

In the California decision, that state’s Supreme Court said:

“The proposal is offered as a single amendment but it obviously is multifarious. It does not give the people an opportunity to express approval or disapproval severally as to each major change suggested; rather does it, apparently, have the purpose of aggregating for the measure the favorable votes from electors of many suasions who, wanting strongly enough any one or more propositions offered, might grasp at that which they want, tacitly accepting the remainder.”

Judge Klinger said Amendment A was a revision and therefore, according to the state constitution, should have been sent to a statewide constitutional convention and then been the subject of a special election, rather than proceeding directly to the general election ballot.

She concluded:

“Based on the analysis set forth above, Amendment A is unconstitutional as it includes
multiple subjects in violation of Article XXIII, § l and it is therefore void and has no effect.
Furthermore, Amendment A is a revision as it has far-reaching effects on the basic nature of
South Dakota’s governmental system. As a result, Amendment A was required to be submitted to
the voters through the constitutional convention process set forth in Article XXIII, § 2. The
failure to submit Amendment A through the proper constitutional process, voids the amendment
and it has no effect.”

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