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South Dakota recreational marijuana backers file to defend amendment in court

South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws announced Monday, Nov. 23, the organization would file the needed paperwork to intervene in the case, essentially giving it standing to defend Amendment A from a lawsuit brought by two law enforcement officials, with backing from Gov. Kristi Noem.

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — The group that proposed a constitutional amendment to legalize recreational marijuana in South Dakota, a measure approved by voters on Nov. 3, says it plan to defend the amendment from a court challenge.

South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws announced Monday, Nov. 23, the organization would file the needed paperwork to intervene in the case, essentially giving it standing to defend Amendment A from a lawsuit brought by two law enforcement officials, with backing from Gov. Kristi Noem.

"Amendment A was carefully drafted, fully vetted, and approved by a strong majority of South Dakota voters this year," the group said in a post on its Facebook page , adding the lawsuit seeks to "overturn the will of the voters on the basis of two incorrect legal theories."

The lawsuit, brought in Hughes County by Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom and Col. Rick Miller, superintendent of the South Dakota Highway Patrol, essentially argues South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws abused the initiative process that put it on the ballot, argues the amendments changes to the state Constitution are too broad, and claims its insertion of a new article in the Constitution goes against amendment provisions laid out in the Constitution.

The Monday statement from South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws provides a preview of the group's legal arguments.

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The group claims the lawsuit was filed incorrectly as a contest to the election, although it actually just contests the text of the amendment. It also says the concerns about the amendment's broad changes is incorrect because the changes are all related to marijuana. The group also says the concern about inserting a new article isn't a valid one.

"This manufactured distinction is unsupported in the law and is utterly insufficient as a basis for overturning a constitutional amendment approved by voters," the group stated.

South Dakota voters approved Amendment A 54% to 46% in the Nov. 3 election. Taxpayers are essentially funding both sides of the lawsuit, because the state attorney general is named to defend the amendment, and the two officials are suing both as private individuals and in their official capacities.

The Rapid City Journal reported the State of South Dakota will pay for part of the lawsuit, quoting Noem as saying the lawsuit lays out "serious constitutional concerns."

"The governor approved this because she took an oath to support and defend the constitution. This is part of her duty as governor,” spokesman Ian Fury told the Rapid City Journal.

Jeremy Fugleberg is editor of The Vault, Forum Communications Co.'s home for Midwest history, mysteries, crime and culture. He is also a member of the company's Editorial Advisory Board.
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