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Amendment A 59% Longer Than SD Bill of Rights, Could Lead to Court Battle Over Amendment Z

South Dakota’s Bill of Rights, Article 6 of our state constitution, is 2,528 words long. 43% of that—1,086 words—is the crap we wrote into our constitution in 2016 when Kelsey Grammer and a drug-addled billionaire from California persuaded us that we needed his poor dead sister’s name and his redundant and problematiccrime victim rights” into our founding document.

The other, mostly useful 57% of Article 6 enumerates and details our inherent rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. Section 3 outlines our freedom of religion in 126 words. Section 4 protects our right to petition and peaceably assemble in 26 words. Section 5 guarantees freedom of speech and sets parameters for libel trials in 63 words. Section 11, search and seizure—51 words. Section 24, right to bear arms—19 words.

After 30 minutes of cleaning up the PDF copy provided online by the sponsors, I determined that Amendment A is 2,298 words long. Pass Amendment A, and as of July 1, our constitution will have 59.4% more words securing our limited right to use, grow, sell, and fund our schools with marijuana than it uses to secure our other basic rights.

Now I’ve always said that length should not automatically disqualify an initiative from consideration. The crime victims bill of rights that we adopted in 2016 isn’t bad because it is long; it’s bad because it infringes on due process and shields cops who use force against suspects. Some important, complicated issues can’t be properly resolved with a constitutional one-liner; they require lengthy and detailed definitions and provisions to clarify and achieve their aims. But length can be a barrier to passage: the longer a measure, the more chance there is that one provision will turn a voter against it, and the more chance there is that the casual voter who just picked up the papers today will suspect there’s some trick buried in the text that he won’t bother to read in detail.

I have previously summarized ten of the major activities Amendment A would constitutionally enshrine and permit. I’ve also noted that the diversity of activities covered by Amendment A could lead to a court challenge under Amendment Z (now the last 36 words of Article 23 Section 1), a bad idea that we wrote into our constitution in 2018 to prohibit us from initiating amendments that entail multiple subjects. (Hmm… we haven’t passed a really good amendment to our constitution since 1998, when we tried to ban corporate farming… and that amendment failed judicial scrutiny, ensuring we’d become the CAFO haven we are today.) Length alone should not cause voters to reject an initiative, but length could help persuade a judge that Amendment A addresses multiple subjects and should be overturned.

I’ve said on various occasions that I will not exert one millinewton to either promote or oppose the legalization of marijuana. (Well, I’ve never actually used the term millinewton in this context, but let’s suppose that’s somewhere around the amount of force required to lift a finger.) I don’t waste my time smoking dope, and I don’t want to spend my time helping others in their dogged pursuit of chemical escapism. At the same time, I’m not terribly interested in crusading against a quasi-libertarian reform (quasi- because Amendment A taxes the crap out of legal weed) that may shift some spending from prisons to schools.

But if voters say yes tomorrow to enshrining pot (and industrial hemp!) in the South Dakota constitution, the Chamber of Commerce, South Dakota Retailers, the Family Heritage Alliance, and other opponents could use the length of Amendment A as a basis for a court challenge. In that regard, Amendment A could be fun, because I might have an opportunity to go to court and beat Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg for a third time, this time not to defend our right to bear weed, but to demonstrate that Amendment Z, the single-subject restriction, infringes on South Dakotans’ rights to free speech and self-governance.


  1. leslie 2020-11-02

    Indefatigable Cory. What would we do w/o you? Here’s what! (to the tune of “In the we small hours of the morning….)

    If we are ever going to be a functioning country where accountability matters, we will need the political will to punish wrongdoing.

    Democratic respect for norms is a defense mechanism protecting us from despair over what this country can become when one party descends into savagery.

    Trump subjected a lot of unwilling Americans to an ongoing crash course in civics by violating norm after norm—norms that many or most of us didn’t even know the country had….There is no future in American politics where Republicans sincerely respect norms again; that contract was shredded by the party as a whole….[We must act] … not simply to even the playing field or to protect civil rights but to save the planet by doing something about climate change. The stakes are not political; they are existental.

  2. leslie 2020-11-02

    “This moment in American politics does not end in a well-earned rest….[Don’t expect] statehood for USVI, Guam, DC, and Puerto Rico and court expansion [will be easy.]” slate article above

  3. Richard Schriever 2020-11-02

    Corey, for your consideration – the consumption of processed food stuffs – for example sugars, processed and vitamin “enriched’ grains (flour, bread, breakfast cereals etc.) coffee – especially decaf., cheese, chocolate in any form other to raw beans, and so on – is the “dogged pursuit of chemical escapism”.

    Unless you are eating ONLY raw unprocessed fruits, vegetables, grains and still warm (or cold re; fish) from having been alive a few moments earlier, you are engaging in that activity. It triggers not only the digestive tract, but certain dopamines and so on (thus is “dope’) in the little grey cells.

    I understand your choice not to care to engage in the consumption of certain substances you find distasteful (I don’t like raw tomatoes – NEVER eat them) but the application of the old “madness” drug wars terminology is simply an exhibition of submission to said ancient debunked propaganda. Much of that propaganda had as its underlying motivations an attitude every bit as vile as, and the progenitor of its current generation – the Trumpists.

    Just sayin’.

  4. Donald Pay 2020-11-02

    I’m not sure how I would vote on Amendment A if I were still a SD voter. It’s not the.plant that’s the problem. It’s the people. I don’t care if someone imbibes, as long as it doesn’t take over their lives. And I do worry about teens getting easier access. I also don’t like the sin lobbies that crawl up legislators rectums and control their votes. Whether it’s the lobbies for liquor, gaming or pot, they all are terrible people. Still, prohibition doesn’t work and it’s needlessly destructive and expensive.

  5. DaveFN 2020-11-02

    Not at all clear the distinction Richard Schriever is making between the consumption of unprocessed versus processed foodstuffs in relation to the dopamine anhedonia hypothesis of Roy Wise developed in the early 80s stemming in turn from the work of James Olds dating from the 50’s and 60’s, nor of any of the modifications since that time. Lesion studies have since demonstrated that it is possible to feel pleasure without dopamine involvement, and even in the late 60’s Kelleher and Morse demonstrated that stressful events can also cause dopamine elevations; in other words, pleasure is not a necessary correlate of dopamine elevations or even of reinforcement. Richard takes the anhedonia hypothesis even further into the realm of natural versus unnatural foodstuffs(does he have a reference for this notion?).

    Psychology has long sought to establish itself as a scientific discipline in the tradition of the hard sciences which accounts for such notions as the dopamine hypothesis as inferred from animal experiments. Historically, one might say this hearkens all the way back to Freud and not because the latter had biochemical aspirations, but because Freud’s translator James Strachey mistranslated Freud’s German word ‘Trieb’ as “instinct.” But ‘trieb’ comes from the German ‘trieben’ which means ‘to push,’ hence ‘trieb’ is better translated as ‘drive.’ Animal experiments and instinct and its interference work rather well together.

    Instinct (a word Freud uses rarely but when he does it is ‘Instinkt’) is “a hereditary behavior pattern peculiar to an animal species, varying little from one member of this species to another and unfolding in accordance with a temporal scheme which is generally resistant to change and apparently geared to a purpose” (Laplanche and Pontalis, The Language of Psycho-Analysis,1973, p. 214). By contrast, drive (‘Trieb’) “retains overtones suggestive of pressure (Trieben=to push); the use of ‘Trieb’ accentuates not so much a precise goal as a general orientation, and draws attention to the irresistible nature of the pressure rather than to the stability of its aim and object” (Laplanche and Pontalis, 1973, p. 214). This well describes the “dogged pursuit” of all manner of human objects and choices and is not limited to those chemical in nature.

    All of which is to say that the dopamine hypothesis is exceptionally stupifying and reductionistic when it comes to the overdetermination of the world of the human and the messiness of human desire that goes far beyond anything we see in the animal kingdom. Human behavior is much more complex than to be accounted for simply on the basis of neurotransmitter correlations. As Alfred Korzybski long ago noted: “The [biochemical] map is not the [psychic] territory.”

    All too unfortunately, psychology has become complicit in materialistic accounts of human behavior, having abandoned some of the most fertile insights as proposed by Freud who was the origin of the discipline. Thinking it has progressed into the 20th century, psychology would better return to the early work of Freud. (I heartily recommend Freud’s “The Psychopathology of Everyday Life,” and “Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious” and their diligent reading.]

    And PAX to the feminists who similarly dismiss Freud for being prescriptive when he was being descriptive of what he observed in the clinic of human nature at the time…

  6. o 2020-11-02

    So, size does matter?

    I’m for recreational use of marijuana – that prohibition has been an exercise in institutional racism.
    I’m against medical marijuana – we should not be voting on what is “medicine.” That feels like a platform for science denial through majority will.

  7. grudznick 2020-11-02

    grudznick hates the demon weed in any form, but can live with the tokers not going to jail for the toking. What nobody can live with is the sloppily slapping of that level of detail into our constitution instead of where it should be. Mr. Seiler has lost a lot of credibility with everybody for his bogus lies about the Amendment lettered “A” being well written. We all know why they’re doing it as an amendment, so be honest about it.

    Say “I want to toke”, not “I need this to make my hangnail feel better.” Be honest about your toking.

    Then put it in the laws where it can be fixed of the slop more easily.
    Mr. Seiler, grudznick has out lawyered you again. Perhaps you can now be appointed to the position to which you aspired, and I backed you for. But do not advocate for such slop.

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