Marijuana advocates may be figuring out that if they want to use the initiative process to create better marijuana laws, they have to engage more broadly in advocacy for the initiative process itself.
The Libertarian Party of South Dakota announced yesterday that they are adding two cannabis speakers to the agenda of its state convention, coming up Saturday, April 23, at the Arrowwood Cedar Shore Resort. Addressing the Libertarians (and perhaps drawing a larger-than-usual crowd of potential recruits for South Dakota’s only third party) will be Matthew Schweich, who directs campaigns for South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, and Ned Horsted, who executively directs the Cannabis Industry Association of South Dakota. The visit will give Schweich a chance to collect a few more signatures for SDBML’s petition to put marijuana legalization on the November ballot, and it will perhaps give Horsted a chance to hunt up some new business members.
But the really fun event is a forum the Libertarians announced yesterday in which Schweich and plutocrats’ propagandist Lisa Marie Nolen of Americans for Prosperity will discuss Amendment C, the Republicans’ 60%-vote rule for fiscal initiatives. Nolen will give AFP’s deceptive case for Amendment C; Schweich will argue against Amendment C.
And bless Schweich for doing so, as one could argue that arguing against Amendment C is a step outside the immediate needs of his organization. Amendment C raises the vote necessary to enact certain ballot questions from simple majority to 60%. The ballot questions subjected to this unjust minority rule (by which a minority can block adoption of popular measures) are those which impose or increase taxes or fees and those which obligate the state to appropriate $10 million or more in any of the first five years after enactment. The legalization initiative SDBML is circulating right now does not impose or increase any taxes or fees. In its October 12, 2021, fiscal note, the Legislative Research Council identifies no new costs to the state; legalizing marijuana might actually decrease state and county expenses and bring in a little bit more revenue from civil penalties. Amendment C thus does not appear to pose any direct threat to the chances of passing marijuana legalization; if SDBML submits 16,961 valid petition signatures by May 3, their initiative will only require a 50%+1 vote to pass.
Yet Schweich is speaking up against Amendment C’s dangerous erosion of South Dakotans’ power of initiative and referendum, perhaps because Schweich recognizes that his organization needed the initiative process to win two big victories with voters at the polls in 2020 and finally reverse decades of Legislative resistance to considering legal, regulated marijuana use in South Dakota. Schweich may recognize that any erosion of the initiative process in South Dakota, even if it does not threaten any specific marijuana measure under immediate consideration, threatens SDBML’s ability, and everyone else’s, to use direct democracy to promote good policy.
So hey, Libertarians, and everybody else! Head to Chamberlain on April 23 to see how well folks promoting leafy liberty can defend your initiative rights against the false crony capitalism of our Koch corporate overlords!