|Graphic: South Dakota Coalition for Compassion|
Encouraged by their near miss four years ago, medical marijuana supporters say they have a better chance this year to persuade South Dakotans to legalize the plant for treating pain, nausea and other health problems.
A similar measured failed in 2006, getting about 48 percent of the vote. It was the only time in American history that medical marijuana lost a statewide popular election.
But a coalition of patients, doctors, nurses and others will campaign this summer, explaining how marijuana can help people with serious illnesses, said organizer Emmett Reistroffer, reports Chet Brokaw of The Associated Press.
“We feel like once people learn about the therapeutic uses, they will compassionately support the measure,” Reistroffer said. “If we help them understand marijuana is a medicine, we think we’ll gain their votes.”
Gov. Mike Rounds opposes the measure. He claims doctors already have legal medicine available to treat the kinds of symptoms that some people use marijuana to treat; never mind that the pharmaceuticals don’t work!
“I’m still of the opinion that the vast majority of people that are looking at medical marijuana are winking on the side and have more recreational use intended,” said the governor, seemingly intent on proving just what an ignorant asshole he is.
A pro-marijuana group called South Dakota Coalition for Compassion filed more than 30,000 signatures last month, far exceeding the 16,776 valid signatures needed to put the initiative on November’s ballot for a statewide vote.
If voters approve the measure, South Dakota would join 14 other states which have legalized marijuana for medical uses.
The proposal would limit medical marijuana use to those with severe debilitating pain, nausea, seizures and other serious medical problems. Qualifying conditions would include cancer, glaucoma, AIDS, multiple sclerosis and other serious diseases.
The South Dakota Health Department would issue I.D. cards to patients who have a doctor’s certification of medical needs that could be treated with marijuana. Registered patients and their designated caregivers could not be arrested or prosecuted for having up to an ounce of cannabis.
Patients and caregivers will also be allowed to grow up to six marijuana plants, which would have to be kept in a locked place.
The movement to legalize medical marijuana has nothing to do with recreational use, Reistroffer said.
“We are solely focused on making sure these patients are protected,” he said. “We are solely focused on protecting the sick and dying people.”
Some states which allow medical marijuana have reported declines in use among teenagers, according to Reistroffer. Once young people get that it is a medicine, pot no longer has the charm of a black market drug, he said.
“This will not have any effect on the community other than a tremendous relief for the people who need it the most,” Reistroffer said. “They will just keep to themselves and seek the relief they need.”
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.