South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem has announced her intention to veto any bills proposed in 2021 by Democrats or Republicans that legalize recreational marijuana use in her state.
Governor Noem has held her position against legalization, telling reporters at a press conference that she would “not be inclined” to sign a bill legalizing marijuana for recreational use. She is even trying to stall the implementation of a medical marijuana program, stating that the process will take at least a year to get everything in order.
Circuit Court Judge vs. the Legislature and the People
On February 8, a circuit court judge overturned the will of voters in South Dakota, who recently passed a constitutional amendment to legalize recreational marijuana with 54% of the vote, while another initiative to legalize medical use passed with 70% of the vote. According to the judge, the amendment would have violated South Dakota’s Constitution.
Despite this, lawmakers in the state have chosen to keep the issue on their agenda, with some GOP lawmakers contemplating moving forward with legalization. Pro-marijuana groups have argued that the Legislature should still try to legalize it this year, and have announced their plans to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.
Many lawmakers see the fight against recreational marijuana as a losing battle, as marijuana use has become less taboo over the past few years around the United States. A poll conducted by Gallup in November of 2020 showed that 68% of Americans supported legalization.
“In my mind, it’s inevitable because we’ve already seen the support from the public,” said Senate Republican leader Gary Cammack.
“Sometimes it’s just like bite the bullet, face reality and get it over with,” said Republican Sen. Timothy Johns.
A group of South Dakota lawmakers have even created a “cannabis caucus,” holding weekly meetings to discuss legalization.
“I didn’t vote for recreational marijuana, but my constituents did. Rarely do we get a chance to enact a law and not for sure know what our constituents think of that. Here we know,” said Republican Greg Jamison.
Jamison has argued that the Legislature would be able to pass a law that does not violate the state Constitution, which would also allow lawmakers to have a say in how the marijuana industry conducts its business in the state.
In order to overrule Governor Noem’s potential veto, both the House and Senate would need a two-thirds majority.