Medical Marijuana: South Dakota Initiative Makes the November Ballot 6/2/06

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South Dakota electoral officials Wednesday certified that a petition drive to place a medical marijuana initiative on the November ballot submitted enough signatures to qualify. Sponsored by South Dakotans for Medical Marijuana, the initiative, if successful, would make South Dakota the 12th state to pass a medical marijuana law, and the first in the Midwest.

The group handed in more than 24,000 signatures on May 2. But because it had to use its existing funds to pay for signature gathering, the group is now broke and asking for contributions.

According to organizers, the initiative would:

  • Protect seriously ill patients -- and their caregivers -- who possess and cultivate limited amounts of marijuana with their doctors' approval from arrest and prosecution by state authorities;
  • Create registry identification cards, so that law enforcement officials will be able to easily tell who is a qualified patient and who is not, and establish penalties for false statements and fraudulent ID cards;
  • Protect doctors from being punished for advising their patients that -- in their sincere professional judgment -- the benefits of the medical use of marijuana for the patient would exceed the risks;
  • Allow patients and their caregivers who are arrested to raise a medical defense in court; and
  • Prohibit the public use of marijuana and driving under the influence of marijuana, among other restrictions.
The South Dakota legislature has refused to act on medical marijuana bills in recent years. Similarly, in the case of Matthew Ducheneaux, a paraplegic Lakota who used marijuana to ease muscle spasms, the South Dakota courts passed on the opportunity to allow the use of a medical necessity defense. Now, the voters will have a chance to have their say.

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Issue #438 -- 6/2/06

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