Hey, medical marijuana supporters! Tired of getting kicked around by the Legislature and Governor Kristi Noem? I have some practical advice that would help you get what you and the voters want this year, with no delay.
Last month, Governor Noem announced her intention to delay Initiated Measure 26, the medical marijuana law, by a full year. In response, IM 26 backers proposed a compromise: reduce the delay, but give medical marijuana users legal protections on the currently scheduled enactment date of July 1. Last week the House amended the delay bill, House Bill 1100, to put off implementation of medical marijuana for six months instead of a whole year. But the House did not include July 1 user protections.
291,754 South Dakotans—69.92% of our electorate—voted just a few months ago to implement medical marijuana in full, legal protections and all, as soon as legally possible, this July 1. The will of the people delayed is the will of the people denied.
I hear lots of angst online over the Legislature’s thwarting of yet another popular ballot measure. I see a lot of Twitterers who don’t pay much attention to other substantial political issues but who are clicking up a storm over this delay of medical marijuana. Voters haven’t forgotten November. With so much angry voter energy, why compromise with a Legislature and Governor that give not one slim damn what the voters want?
IM 26 supporters, I offer you a means by which you could save IM 26 and see its full implementation on July 1, the way you and the voters intended, no matter how the Legislature votes. Refer HB 1100 to a vote.
IM 26 got on the ballot thanks to the efforts of passionate activists who collected 25,524 valid signatures on their initiative petition in little more than two months. Tap those activists for another petition starting on March 29, the last day of the Legislative Session. That’s the day citizens can start circulating petitions to refer any law passed by this year’s Legislature to a public vote. Just like for IM 26, referring HB 1100 would require collecting 16,961 signatures from registered South Dakota voters. You thus need to get one out of 17 of the people who voted for IM 26 to sign this referendum petition. (Boost that ratio to one out of 11 IM 26 Yeas, and you’d have more signatures than you got for IM 26.)
SDCL 2-1-3.1 gives you 90 days from the end of the Session to collect those signatures. The 90th day is a Sunday, so you get until Monday, June 28, to submit your referendum petition to the Secretary of State. Dot your i‘s and swear your oaths with the same effectiveness you did your initiative petition in fall 2019, and you can easily submit a valid referendum petition by that time.
A referendum puts a law on the ballot at the next general election, which in this case would be November 2022. But the real benefit of referring HB 1100 isn’t getting another public vote an an issue the public thought it decisively settled last election. The real benefit is stopping the delay on IM 26 and enacting medical marijuana on July 1.
Consider: when citizens refer a law to a vote, the law is suspended until that vote. Article 3 Section 1 of the South Dakota Constitution says that our right to refer laws includes requiring that properly petitioned measures “be submitted to a vote of the electors of the state before going into effect.” That’s why referenda have a 90-day deadline: citizens need to get the petitions in and the Secretary needs to count all those signatures before those laws are scheduled to take effect.
IM 26 supporters, if the Senate approves and the Governor signs HB 1100, you have veto power in your hands. Collect and submit 16,961 signatures to the Secretary of State by June 28, and you can effectively kill HB 1100. You suspend Noem’s delay, and IM 26 takes effect as written, on July 1. You preserve IM 26’s original timeline, and the state has to enact every one of its provisions well before referred HB 1100 comes to our ballot in November 2022.
I know, it’s probably more politic to go play nice with Senate Health and Human Services on Wednesday. But again, I have to ask, why compromise when you can get what the voters wanted with just one more petition drive, striking while public discontent is hot and scoring a searing coup against a Legislature that is acting with impunity against our wishes? The people vote, and the Legislature acts against their vote. That’s madness up with which we should not put!
Refer this madness: if the Senate won’t do the people’s will and kill HB 1100, do it yourselves.