The governor of South Dakota is continuing her condemnation of voters’ decision to legalize marijuana for medical and recreational purposes in the state during November’s election—even as she takes new steps to fund the implementation of the programs at the same time a lawsuit to overturn the vote that her administration is financially backing proceeds in court.
On Tuesday, Gov. Kristi Noem (R) said during her annual budget address that she wanted to “call out one budget provision related to the disappointing votes on marijuana at the ballot box this year” and that there are “significant safety and regulatory costs associated with both the medical marijuana measure and the recreational one.”
The budget is complicated by a lawsuit challenging the adult-use reform measure, Noem said, stating that she will “have to present two courses of action—a path forward with both recreational and medical, and a second with just medical.”
The medical cannabis reform measure is not being legally contested.
The governor argued that the state “will not see any revenue from marijuana until at least April of 2022, though it could be longer.”
“And in the meantime, to comply with the predetermined timeline, the Department of Revenue needs to get to work now,” she said. “This funding would go toward staff, technology, consultants, and other costs, until revenues from the program are enough to sustain it. But there will also be a number of other collateral costs, like safety, training and enforcement, among many others.”
Watch the governor discuss the marijuana measures, starting at 18:28 into the video below:
“On top of this, the Department of Health has specific needs related to the medical marijuana program,” Noem added. “My budget recommends just over $136,000 over three years to cover staff and other costs related to setting up a program. That should be enough to support program costs until revenue starts coming in.”
“Over the coming weeks, we hope to know more about which path we need to take.”
The lawsuit against the recreational initiative, which was filed by two South Dakota law enforcement officials and funded in part by the state, claims that the measure should be invalidated because it violated a single-subject rule stipulating that “no proposed amendment may embrace more than one subject.”
“In South Dakota we respect our Constitution,” Noem told The Rapid City Journal last month. “I look forward to the court addressing the serious constitutional concerns laid out in this lawsuit.”
She said shortly after the election that she was “personally opposed to these measures and firmly believe they’re the wrong choice for South Dakota’s communities,” adding that the states needs “to be finding ways to strengthen our families, and I think we’re taking a step backward in that effort.”
Noem, who previously vetoed a hemp bill, filmed a video ad before Election Day that urged constituents to reject the recreational marijuana initiative, stating that it’s “not good for our kids” and won’t “improve our communities.”
“The fact is, I’ve never met someone who got smarter from smoking pot,” she said in the spot.
But while the governor might be supporting the ongoing legal case seeking to overturn voters’ decision, the state’s attorney general asked a court to dismiss the suit last week, contesting the idea that the measure violates the single-subject clause.
Meanwhile, the judge overseeing the case said that advocates behind the legalization campaign are allowed to intervene in the lawsuit.
Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.