PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — A South Dakota judge in Pierre heard nearly three hours of arguments from attorneys on Wednesday in a lawsuit that will ultimately decide the fate of an amendment to the state constitution legalizing recreational marijuana, medical marijuana and hemp.
Voters approved the amendment in November with 54% of the vote. But two law enforcement officers, Highway Patrol Superintendent Col. Rick Miller and Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom, have tried to halt the state from legalizing pot by challenging its constitutionality. A lawyer representing Miller made it clear the head of the highway patrol was acting at the behest of Gov. Kristi Noem, who opposed the marijuana legalization measure.
Lisa Postrollo, the lawyer representing Miller, argued the amendment creates an “unprecedented problem” for the state’s constitution by giving the Department of Revenue the power to tax and regulate marijuana, elevating the Department of Revenue to a fourth branch of government.
Lawyers for the law enforcement officers also argued the amendment violated a rule that constitutional amendments must only address one subject and should have been treated as a wide-sweeping revision to the constitution, which requires a convention to finalize changes before it is presented to voters.
But lawyers defending the amendment said that designating authority to a state agency is something that happens all the time and cast the lawsuit as an effort to overturn the results of a fair election. They argued that the public’s ability to enact laws is a foundational aspect of South Dakota law, which would be spurned if the courts overturn the amendment.