Cannabis Ballot Measures Are a Sucker’s Game: Notes from South Dakota, Mississippi, Nebraska and Florida

Last week, the Supreme Court of South Dakota overturned a voter-approved, constitutional amendment to legalize adult use cannabis statewide. Governor Kristi Noem instigated the anti-democratic fight on social welfare grounds, although the court made its ruling on technical grounds, finding that Amendment A violated a “single-issue” initiative subject requirement. If that’s true, you’d have to wonder why Noem et al. waited until after the election results to challenge the structure of the initiative. You might also wonder how Amendment A found itself onto the ballot in the first place. Presumably, the Secretary of State had approved this submission.

This is the second time in 2021 that a state supreme court has struck down a voter-approved initiative to legalize cannabis use. In May, the Mississippi Supreme Court abolished Initiative 65 (regulating medical cannabis), even though a whopping 73% of voters had backed the measure. In that case, the Court cited a constitutional requirement that signatures be collected equally across five Congressional districts. Since the instatement of that requirement, however, the state had dropped from five districts to four, and the standard was therefore impossible to meet. (Yes, you read that right.)

These outcomes are discouraging but not surprising: the South Dakota

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