South Dakota: AG’s Ballot Summary Is Prejudicial, Judge Rules

Pierre, SD: The state attorney general’s description of a proposed ballot initiative to legalize the physician recommended use of cannabis is prejudicial and must be rewritten, a South Dakota Circuit Judge has determined.

As initially drafted, the state’s summary of Initiated Measure 4 implied that “the attorney general wants voters to reject the initiative,” Circuit Judge Max Gors ruled. “The attorney general should confine his politicking to the stump and leave his bias out of the ballot statement that is supposed to be objective.”

The initiative, sponsored by South Dakotans for Safe Access, would allow state-qualified patients to possess up to six plants and/or one ounce of cannabis for medical purposes. Qualified patients must possess a physician’s recommendation to use cannabis and must register with the state Department of Health. Non-registered patients, or those who possess greater quantities of cannabis than allowed under state law, would have the option of raising an ‘affirmative defense’ of medical necessity at trial.

Proponents of the measure criticized the attorney general’s ballot explanation because it falsely stated that physicians who comply with the law would be subject to federal prosecution, among other issues.

Eleven states ­ Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington ­ have enacted similar laws. Eight of these did so by voter initiative.

Full text of the decision is available online at: