Feature: South Dakota Medical Marijuana Campaigners Set to Hand in Signatures for November Initiative

In 2006, voters in South Dakota become the first -- and the only -- in the nation to reject a state initiative legalizing medical marijuana, defeating it by a margin of 52% to 48%. This year, they will have a chance to reconsider. The South Dakota Coalition for Compassion announced this week it has gathered enough signatures to put its medical marijuana initiative on the November ballot.

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coalition banner
Advocates need 16,776 valid signatures of registered voters to qualify for the ballot. The coalition says it has collected more than 30,000 signatures, far more than what is generally considered necessary to make up for the inevitable invalid signatures.

The coalition had planned to turn the signatures in to the South Dakota secretary of state Wednesday, but icy highways forced a change of plans. Now, organizers will make the 200-mile trip from Sioux Falls to the state capital in Pierre Monday, providing roads are passable.

The initiative, which was crafted with the help of the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, DC, would enable people suffering from cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, or Alzheimer's disease to qualify to use medical marijuana upon a doctor's recommendation. So could people suffering from cachexia or wasting syndrome, intractable pain, severe nausea, and severe or persistent muscle spasms. The initiative contains a provision that would allow the state Department of Health to add other conditions to the list.

The Health Department would issue registration cards to patients and caregivers once a patient presents a written recommendation from a physician. Patients could possess up to one ounce of usable marijuana and grow up to six plants, or they could designate a caregiver to grow for them. Caregivers could grow for no more than five patients. There is no provision for dispensaries.

Under the initiative, patients who have registration IDs or other proof they are bona fide medical marijuana patients from other states could use medical marijuana in South Dakota. Schools, employers, and landlords would be barred from discriminating against patients or caregivers unless they were bound to by federal law or would lose federal funding. Similarly, medical marijuana patients could not be discriminated against on organ transplant lists.

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Patrick Lynch
Coalition director Patrick Lynch, a former chairman of the board for the North Central States Chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society, was driven to support the effort by his own experience and the suffering of others. "I am an MS sufferer," he said. "We're doing this out of compassion for patients, for other people who are going through the same thing I am."

Lynch was optimistic that a medical marijuana initiative could win this time around. "We only got beat by four points last time, and I feel real good about it passing this time," he said. "People are more educated and informed now. The response we've had has been overwhelming. I think this is going to happen."

The South Dakota legislative session just opened, but it is unclear whether anyone will sponsor a medical marijuana bill this year. Repeated efforts to pass a medical marijuana bill in Pierre going back to 2001 have all been throttled by hostile committee chairs, and last year was no exception.

"We wanted to give the legislature one last chance to act and save the state the money of holding the election, but unfortunately, our support in the legislature has been deteriorating," said Emmett Reistroffer, chief petitioner for the coalition. "We were really banking on the Democrats, but their leadership has not been friendly."

Reistroffer said the Democratic leadership was pressuring last year's bill sponsor, Rep. Martha Vanderlinde (D-Sioux Falls), not to sponsor a bill this year. "If she decides not to sponsor it, that could be the end of our efforts in the legislature. Vanderlinde comes from the most medical marijuana-friendly district in the state and is a nurse, so it wouldn't hurt her viability, but the Democratic leadership worries that if it got out of committee, Democrats would have to vote on it, and they don't want to do that," he said.

Reistroffer proudly pointed out that the signature-gathering campaign was completely financed by in-state money, primarily from business owners in the state's two largest cities, Sioux Falls and Rapid City. But he hopes to attract some outside funding from national reform groups for the fall campaign.

"We want to launch a very aggressive yet compassionate public education campaign, so that patients and professionals can engage other people in the community in discussion, especially older folks," he said. "We want them to understand that we are interested in the day-to-day relief of suffering, not in getting high. We've been communicating with MPP, and we're hopeful they will help fund advertising for the campaign."

"We were there for the 2006 campaign where we came up just short," said MPP's Steve Fox. "We're going to see how it goes, probably do a poll at some point, and then figure out if and how we will be able to help. They only need two points to get over the top."

One feature of the 2006 effort was organized opposition led by then Attorney General Larry Long (R). Long mobilized law enforcement to speak out against the measure and worked with the Bush administration to bring an official from the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to Sioux Falls to campaign against it.

The Obama era ONDCP is unlikely to be out campaigning against medical marijuana initiatives, and Reistroffer was hopeful that Long's successor as attorney general, former US Attorney for the Eastern District of South Dakota Marty Jackley, would be less recalcitrant.

"Jackley has already signaled more progressive drug policies as part of his program," Reistroffer said. "He announced he wants to create a program to send prescription addicts to treatment, not jail. He is already looking at drug policy as a health care matter more than a law enforcement matter."

But Jackley threw cold water on Reistroffer's hopes in a Wednesday interview with the Associated Press. While saying he had yet to have an official position on the initiative, Jackley trotted out familiar law enforcement plaints.

In states that allow medical marijuana, he said, police have problems distinguishing between those who can legally use it and those who "hide" behind medical marijuana laws so they can smoke for non-medical reasons. "It essentially becomes complete authorization of marijuana use," Jackley claimed.

And he claimed that marijuana use leads to violence. "As a prosecutor, I've seen the adverse effects that marijuana can have on certain personalities," the attorney general said. "We've experienced violent crimes associated with the use of marijuana."

Once the signatures are turned in Monday, the secretary of state has 45 days to certify the initiative for the ballot. Look for the battle to begin in earnest then as South Dakota vies to become the first state in the Upper Midwest to become medical marijuana-friendly.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Violence?

He makes claims he can't substantiate!? People of South Dakota, you are being lied to! The guys with LEAP say that their experiences are not as this politician claims. They often report the fact that they would much rather go to a scene of an drug report as compared to one involving alcohol. They pretty well knew, they would, more likely be assaulted at the drunk call than at the call involving cannabis. If he has any reports of it causing violence, then where is the evidence? He just makes another unsubstantiated claim, so the "druggies" look bad. He thinks that he looks good because he thinks he is on the "moral high ground"! What a joke!

Just like the report I saw the other day. They are worried about the problem with driving under the influence, although it has been shown to have almost non-results statistically. In 2005,.... 111,000 traffic deaths found to be a result of alcohol consumption and 17 deaths related to cannabis consumption. They should be more concerned about the problem related to the drug ETOH (alcohol) that with cannabis. That is something like .015% of all drug and alcohol related traffic fatalities. It also calculates out to .00000056% of the total US population (figuring 300 million)! It is obvious that they do not consider the statistical significance of these numbers! And I have heard very few on the pro-cannabis side that support anything less than charging impaired drivers with driving under the influence, be it alcohol, or any other drug!

We already have the laws. I think, even with enforcement, do they really think that it will reveal cannabis users as bad drivers, with these types of statistics? Most would be just as responsible, whether consuming alcohol or cannabis.

1. math; 2. how-to education; 3. statistics

1. One ounce of herb, properly sifted to uniform particle size and "smoked" in a narrow screened long-stemmed one-hitter ("semi-vaporizer utensil" yields about 900 single tokes of 25-mg. each. The measure could be written to specify that, in the interest of Responsible Use and harm minification, smoking patients and caregivers be instructed in the technical issues of using such a device instead of hot-burning, THC-destroying, health-threatening "joint" paper (or, even better but more expensively, be required to receive or purchase a vaporizer which will pay for itself readily in non-wasteful, health-protective use). This provision would extinguish many time-honored fears related to the safety, driving ability or social trustworthiness of cannabis users.

2. In the interest of safer "smoking" as above, the following articles are available to be consulted:

http://www.wikihow.com/Sift-Herbs-for-Smoking-Use

http://www.wikihow.com/Make-Smoke-Pipes-From-Everyday-Objects

http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-1/4%22-diam.-Screen-for-a-Single-Toke-Utensil

http://www.wikihow.com/Convert-a-Wasteful-Hot-Burning-Wide-Mouth-Chillum...

http://www.wikihow.com/Convert-a-Hot-Burning-Big-Bowl-Tobacco-Pipe-Into-...

Note that if any deficiencies are found in the above articles, anyone can log in as an editor on wikihow, learn the precedural rules for editing, and revise or augment the text as needed. One improvement would be to add photos or videos illustrating construction and use of such utensils.

3. In the interest of credibility, I would question mlang's figure of 111,000 traffic deaths from alcohol, unless that is worldwide rather than just US which I think is under 20,000 but horrible enough. Also the figure of 17 is the first I have ever seen as related to cannabis, maybe someone has time to check that out and find out how they estimated it. By coincidence, some may remember a train accident-- 1973?-- in which an engineer named Gates, after "smoking marijuana", disregarded signals and caused an accident killing 17-- or maybe 16. (In the fine print of a related newspaper story it was disclosed that at a later Congressional hearing to which Gates was invited, he testified that for years he had had an "alcohol problem."

PfDFA spent $millions posting an ad in which a tearful sobbing husband related that his wife was among the victims. Someone should write up a history of "government" scare warnings of this kind assessing to what degree they have been a "self-fulfilling fallacy" actually co-causing newsworthy suicidal or homicidal behavior by cannabis users, to the benefit of arch-rival and enemy Big 2WackGo (which with its monumental tax-revenue bribe really sponsors such Big Government in action ("Conservatives" take note).

Sorry about my numbers

I thought that I had read this recently, so I will have to go verify the source.

Yep! It should have been 17,000 alcohol related fatalities. Thanks for pointing that out. Be that as it may, the statistical difference of cannabis vs alcohol is, still, very high. The good news I saw, while reviewing this, was that the % fatalities related to alcohol have dropped from 60% in 1980 to 39% for the last two years available, 2004-5. Education worked there and it would work with cannabis. But the likelihood of having a cannabis related accident is still, likely, much, much less than with alcohol. Lets see in 2004 they reported that 18% of the alcohol related fatalities (17,000) had drugs in their system, too. There were no deaths that were directly blamed on cannabis. So, that means, from what has been reported. There are very few cannabis related deaths compared to the alcohol related traffic fatalities. In fact, none have been reported in 2004. Why!?

But, I have to watch out for those hot burning devices now. Would not want to damage my lungs! Luckily never smoked cigarettes! My dad told me I could , when I was ten years old!? But, he said he wished he could throw his away and it was very hard to stop. As I always told kids, "The easiest way to avoid smoking cigarettes is being smart enough to never start in the first place!"

1ff. How they hooked your dad, Aff. Regulations to promote

1. In the 70's (the last time I ever went in one) some richguy would rent a big barn or loft and invite the public, including under 18, in to hear electronicly amplified band music, watch videos on big screens, dance etc.

2. In those days before stricter restrictions you might, each hour spent in such a place, breathe effluent from 100 or more $igarettes smoked in that same room. If you just even showed up there you didn't have to "start"; that stuff was in your bloodstream, maybe even helping you stay awake talking boring stuff in hopes of getting to know some girl, or drinking as many beers as the other guys to pass for normal and get in the group etc.etc. so it helped raise your self-confidence temporarily even if you didn't notice how.

3. After days of recovery, hangover, etc. it's time for the BIG SCHOOL TEST testing whether you'll get a grade your parents aren't ashamed of; you must stay up all night tonight "cramming" and "everyone" agrees a "cigarette or two" will help you do it. It's about then you get hooked. Anxiety to obey school requirements overrides the "Don't start" warnings.

4. Since Sinatra, the $igarette companies have used drug profit money to reward entrepreneurs for hiring musicians which generate the most boozy style of music that makes kids want to drink hard.

5. In the 90's the "Joe Camel" cartoons featered a "cool" band (but Reynolds couldn't use the band name "Kool" which belonged to B&W, so they substituted "smooth"). They promoted fatter $igarettes ("Wides") by fooling kids into thinking wider $igarettes ( full of "feel cool" drugs) were "smoother".

6. In a separate genre aimed at black youths, musicians with names like "Cool" and "TuPac" included sneaky tobackgo advertising in their songs by mentioning "blunts". Named after a certain cigar brand, "blunts" are made by buying a cigar, dumping out the tobackgo filler, and wrapping cannabis in the cigar skin-- often totally unaware that the skin also contains addictive nicotine. I guess it looked darker or more negroid. Often to this day I have seen a little pile of tobackgo on the pavement in a bus shelter or in a garbage can, with a little baggy lying nearby which once the riefer was in, so I know the demented victim spent $11 on the baggie and the $igar and then blew it all away (enough for 40 tokes) in a few minutes.

7. Many modern commercial $igarettes contain the magic herb peppermint ("menthol") to make them seem "milder" than they actually are, along with hundreds of sneaky drugs designed to dumm down your senses, suppress your cough-reflex, fool you into underestimating how much harm you're doing. This $#!!+ has finally hit the fan and the FDA is going to require them to reveal ingredients for the first time in decades, watch closely!

8. Especially in Europe since the 60's there has been a "style" of mixing cannabis and tobackgo in the same "joint" or "spliff" (to get the cannabis to burn etc.) which of course gets kids hooked on nicotine and today $igarette dictatorship is higher there than in US. The fact that the doctored-up tobackgo is "milder" helps them puff harder on harsh riefer or hashish while getting a "moderate" kick so they think it's o.k. and don't worry about the carbon monoxide and consequences down the road.

Additions to the law:

A. Instead of worrying whether to outlaw menthol $igarettes (or clove, or salvia etc.), just educate everybody to grow and sift, or buy sifted peppermint at the herb or healthfood store (sometimes $1/oz.) and buy or make a utensil to serve a 25-mg. peppermint toke (WITHOUT the tobackgo) whenever you want, instead of buying the $igarettes. A Free Market Solution.

B. Require all licensed tobackgo stores to sell little cannisters of an ounce of sifted herb (tobackgo or whichever), a long-stemmed single toke utensil, a 1/16"-mesh screen sifting strainer, etc.; exhibit advertising for such articles as large as any advertising for any other smoking format (like $igarettes), including notification thereon that a standard toke is 25-mg. or less.

C Require every "regular" tobackgo $igarette to have printed on its side, in as large print as the brand name, the net weight of tobackgo therein (usually 700-mg., 20 of those in a pack is a 1/2 ounce). By the way everyone will see that's at least 28 single tokes.

D. Draw up the new regulations for distribution and taxing of cannabis more or less parallel to those described above for $igarettes.

E. When the above reforms go through, the government will have to use taxpayer $ money to create lots of pro-reforestation jobs for former workers in the $igarette industry, and provide re-education etc. One thing the million-dollar $igarette rolling machines can still do is roll up POT-ting soil instead of tobackgo, with a seed or two therein, for reforestation programs funded by the federals for the first few years. The tobackgo farmers can switch to raising fruit trees instead of tobackgo. We'll soon be saving $1.93 trillion per decade on health care costs. (By the way hemp is an excellent precursor crop for trees.)

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