This fall, South Dakota voters will once again be asked if they want marijuana legalized for medicinal purposes, and those who support it like the way things are looking.
Although a similar measure in 2006 failed by a slim margin, organizers behind Initiated Measure 13 say strong grass-roots support and a lack of organized opposition improve the chances of South Dakota becoming the 16th state to allow the illegal drug to be used as a treatment for multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, glaucoma and chronic pain.
Vermillion Police Chief Art Mabry, head of the South Dakota Association of Police Chiefs, is convinced that the medical marijuana movement is just a scheme to get marijuana legalized for all purposes.
"If this passes, the people we call drug dealers today will be called 'caregivers,' " Mabry said. "I'm curious about what a caregiver does with plants that don't sell."
Mabry is also concerned the law would create a black market for unused marijuana and increase the danger of "drugged driving."
Supporters of medical marijuana say their proposal won't cause problems for law enforcement because theirs is the most restrictive in the nation.
"It's almost as if (the opposition) is ignoring every restriction we've written into this," Reistroffer said.
Unlike the majority of current medical marijuana laws, Measure 13 would not allow marijuana dispensaries. Instead, patients would meet twice with a doctor they'd worked with for at least six months to certify that they have one of a defined set of "debilitating" medical conditions, then wait for approval from the South Dakota Department of Health. If they were approved, patients would be allowed to grow up to five plants and possess up to 2 ounces of usable marijuana, otherwise they could just designate a caregiver to provide for them.
Dr. Thomas Huber, president of the South Dakota Medical Association, said no one needs marijuana.
"The proof isn't there," Huber said.
Most people will smoke the medical marijuana and expose themselves to a host of cancer-causing chemicals, he said. Even if patients would benefit from marijuana, they will do damage to their lungs, he said.
"Smoking is bad for you, and smoking marijuana is bad for you, besides being illegal," Huber said.
I hope, for the sake of your patients, that Dr. Huber is a bit more knowledgeable on other aspects of medicine. As a doctor, you should know that marijuana does not lead to lung cancer. Even the conservative gospel recognizes that.
If the opposition really wants to be taken seriously, they are going to have to come up with better arguments. Medical marijuana is not some conspiracy theory to get cannabis legalized for all purposes, legalizing medical marijuana won't cover your roadways with blood, and marijuana certainly doesn't lead to lung cancer. This is about patients that need a way to live with their ailments. Good luck this November, South Dakota!