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'Single Subject' Rule Gets First Test In Marijuana Case Before State's Top Court


The state Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Wednesday on whether a voter approved measure legalizing marijuana is constitutional. 

Those challenging the amendment say it violates a recent law that limits constitutional changes to only one subject. The state’s high court has yet to interpret the provision.  

South Dakota voters legalized recreational AND medical marijuana last year when they passed Amendment A. Both of the measures involve cannabis and its uses, but those appealing to the state Supreme Court say they are two separate issues. 

That would violate  the so-called ‘single subject rule.’  

Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom and Highway Patrol Superintendent Rick Miller  say the people’s vote to legalize marijuana is unconstitutional. That is also Governor Kristi Noem’s opinion.   

Mark Mickelson is a former Speaker of the House. The Sioux Falls Republican led the charge to  approve the single subject rule in 2018. Mickelson says he brought the amendment to prevent,  lengthy ballot measures.  

“I want the issue properly briefed and argued,” Mickelson says. “Let those folks decide whether it applies or not. If they conclude it doesn’t apply here, that means it doesn’t apply to the next version of IM22 or the next version of Marsy’s Law, where clearly we had multiple topics in the same amendment.” 

Mickelson says the amendment is meant to prevent ‘log-rolling,’ the practice of combining multiple  proposals into one ballot question. That can convince some people to   vote for the whole package when they only support one  aspect of it. Mickleson  says he believes the law applies to Amendment A. 

Those supporting  the amendment  say marijuana and hemp  involve  the same subject.  

The state Supreme Court will hear arguments on Amendment A starting at 10 AM CT. 

Lee Strubinger is SDPB’s Rapid City-based news and political reporter. A former reporter for Fort Lupton Press (CO) and Colorado Public Radio, Lee holds a master’s in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.