Big Ballot Measures Coming
by State Rep. Will Mortenson (R – 24)
November 30, 2021
In the 2022 general election, South Dakotans will decide two questions with profound impact on our communities, our laws, and our budget: Recreational Marijuana and Medicaid Expansion. These blockbuster topics will cast a shadow over our Capitol when your legislature meets in January. I expect bills to be introduced that attempt to affect both measures – by limiting their scope, preempting their purpose, or altering their terms.
The legislature ought to let the people have their say. I do not think the legislature should cut in front of measures that thousands of petitioners have already signed. Both ballot measures should get a vote of the people, as the petition signers intended. If either ballot measure is passed, the legislature must ensure that such measure is implemented fully and faithfully.
Medicaid Expansion and Recreational Marijuana arrived on the ballot following different paths. Medicaid Expansion will be placed on the ballot after a petition drive sponsored by the big hospitals. Legal marijuana had a more tumultuous path.
Last week, the Supreme Court ruled that the sponsors of Constitutional Amendment A messed up. I read the Court’s 77-page ruling. The opinion said nothing about the people’s voice or about whether legalizing marijuana is a good idea. The ruling simply said that the sponsors (lawyers from Washington, DC and Sioux Falls) failed to follow the state constitution. Our constitution says that amendments can only address one subject, and these sponsors put a measure on the ballot that combined three subjects: hemp, medical marijuana, and recreational marijuana.
I think the Supreme Court made the right decision, but I was frustrated by the result, because many of my neighbors feel that their time, energy, or vote was wasted. I wish the sponsors had followed the correct process, but they did not. Fortunately, the sponsors have learned their lesson, and petition organizers are gathering signatures to put the single subject of recreational marijuana on the ballot in 2022.
So, next November, we’ll get to vote on these two important questions. In the meantime, the legislature should not try to pass a modified version of either the Medicaid Expansion or Recreational Marijuana measures. We should let these proposals get a vote of the people. If the voters pass them, the legislature should honor their intent and should only consider legislation that faithfully honors that intent. That’s also how I will view legislation next session that affects the medical marijuana measure (“IM26”) that voters passed in 2020.
I encourage all voters to start researching these measures now – the cost, the impact, and the experience of other states that have adopted them. As with every election, we’ll have big decisions to make in 2022. The legislature should let the people make them.