South Dakota high court will review adult-use cannabis case this month

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

Cannabis connoisseurs are eagerly awaiting the Supreme Court’s assessment of a case that could potentially lead to adult-use legalization in South Dakota this month.

On April 28, the high court is expected to hear oral evidence supporting the prospect of a legal adult-use market transpiring.

A team of attorneys acting for South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws – a campaign advocating for better cannabis laws for state residents – stimulated the high court review after they appealed a lower-court ruling to reverse the amendment.

Back in February, a ballot measure to legalize adult-use cannabis in South Dakota was deemed unconstitutional by a District judge. The reason for this was because the measure supposedly featured more than just one topic. Shortly after, the South Dakota Attorney General’s Office resistance to the state’s recreational cannabis amendment was dismissed.

Meanwhile, Gov. Kristi Noem – who objects to the voter-approved effort to legalize recreational cannabis in South Dakota – is attempting to impose restrictions on the state’s voter-approved medical cannabis program.

Governor suggests cannabis decriminalization in South Dakota

In November of last year, voters in South Dakota approved separate ballot initiatives to legalize the cannabis plant for both medical and recreational purposes. At the time, Noem objected to the policy change. 

A judge rejected the adult-use measure in March due to concerns regarding its constitutionality. The state’s medical cannabis initiative, however, will be effectuated on July 1.

Fast forward to now and, as a compromise for recreational cannabis legalization being floored, Noem wants to see the statewide enactment of a decriminalization law.

According to the details of her proposed law, the possession of up to 1 oz of cannabis would be decriminalized. Additionally, patients would be limited to growing three plants for personal use and medical cannabis accessibility would be restricted to those aged below 21.

The bill would also legalize cannabis possession to the amount of one ounce for adults aged 21 or above; anyone caught possessing weed would not risk jail time. 

Any further offenses would be considered a class 2 misdemeanor, which is punishable by a 30-day stint behind bars and a fine up to $500. Underage individuals caught in possession of cannabis in South Dakota will be dealt a class A misdemeanor.

Governor administration’s draft legislation described as “workable start”

The likelihood of South Dakota’s prospective adult-use cannabis market kicking off this month has not been confirmed just yet. On the other hand, the Governor administration’s draft legislation is certainly a step in the right direction.

Governor Noem’s efforts are being praised by Sen. Mike Rohl (R), who described the legislative framework as a “workable start.” Then again, he’s not completely satisfied with the amendments to South Dakota’s adult-use cannabis market, with the Senator saying that he thinks possession penalties should be reduced an opinion shared by numerous advocates.

Lobbyists affiliated with South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, the group behind the reform initiatives, are pushing to broadcast a counter proposal that would restrict patients to growing just six plants. 

Moreover, the proposal would include legal language to broaden the decriminalization strategy to people below the age of 21, in addition to the eradication of a rule stipulating that police officers can lawfully conduct searches, regardless of how much cannabis an individual is in possession of.