In 2006, South Dakota became the only state to defeat an initiative legalizing the medicinal use of marijuana, with proponents coming close, but ultimately short, with 48% of the vote. Now, after the state legislature ignored an opportunity to act on the issue this year, activists are ready to try the voters once again.
South Dakotans for Safe Access filed papers Monday to put its proposed initiative on the 2010 ballot. Supporters need to gain 16,776 valid signatures of registered voters by next April 6 to make the ballot.
Under the proposed measure, patients with debilitating medical conditions and a doctor's recommendation -- or their designated caregivers -- could possess up to six plants and one ounce of usable marijuana, as well as incidental seeds, stems, and roots. Patients would register with the state and be issued ID cards.
The movement is in stronger shape in South Dakota this time, organizer Emmett Reistroffer of Sioux Falls told the Rapid City Journal. It has more patients, doctors, former law enforcement officials, and others than in 2006, he said. "They know this law is best for South Dakota versus what we have now, which calls these patients criminals," said Reistroffer.
The effort will run up against a Republican political establishment implacably opposed to medical marijuana. Attorney General Larry Long earlier this year refused the opportunity to work with proponents to address law enforcement concerns and objections. But at least one thing will be different: In 2006, the Bush administration sent the drug czar's office to South Dakota to energize opposition to that initiative. There is little indication the Obama administration will go to the same effort to interfere in state medical marijuana initiatives.