|Graphic: Oregon NORML|
|Medical marijuana has never lost the popular vote in a statewide election -- except in South Dakota.|
Cannabis advocates on Monday filed petition signatures seeking a statewide vote on a proposal to legalize marijuana in South Dakota for medical use in treating pain, nausea and other health problems, reports KELO.
Nearly 32,000 signatures -- almost double the 16,776 valid signatures needed to make the November ballot -- were turned in to the secretary of state's office in Pierre, according to one of the organizers, Emmett Reistroffer of Sioux Falls.
"I couldn't be more proud of the army of volunteers that helped us collect nearly twice as many signatures as required, and the nearly 30,000 fellow South Dakotans who have joined alongside the Coalition to put the Safe Access Act on the ballot," Reistroffer said.
"Now that South Dakota is closer than ever before in passing a law that would protect MS and other patients, we are finally beginning to feel a sense of relief from the day-to-day fear of unwanted, undeserving, criminal attention and the dangers associated with a malignant black market," said Safe Access Act sponsor Patrick K. Lynch of South Dakota Coalition for Compassion.
It will take officials a few weeks to check whether enough valid signatures were turned in to qualify the measure for a statewide vote, according to State Election Supervisor Kea Warne.
South Dakota holds the dubious distinction of being the only state in which medical marijuana has ever lost a statewide popular vote.
In 2006, 52 percent of the state's voters opposed Initiated Measure 4, which would have protected South Dakota's seriously ill patients from being arrested for using medical marijuana with their doctors' advice.
"Since our announcement on Facebook of the petition drive's completion, I have heard dozens of patients express their feelings of recovery and eagerness that stem from such a slim and emotional loss in 2006," Reistroffer said.
The initiative would have protected patients and their caregivers from arrest, prosecution and conviction for possessing and growing limited amounts of medical marijuana. Doctors also would have been protected from arrest, prosecution, and conviction for recommending marijuana.
A 2002 Lucas Organization poll found that 64 percent of South Dakota residents support allowing seriously ill patients to use marijuana if recommended by a doctor.