South Dakota for Medical Marijuana

On November 7th, 2006, South Dakotans will be voting on Initiated Measure 4 -- Safe Access to Medical Marijuana for Certain Qualified Patients. With your support and vote, we hope to make South Dakota the 12th state to enact a medical marijuana law.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Marinol v. Smoked, Larry Long, etc.

This morning I commented at South Dakota War College under his post about an article about different media sources becoming players in the election process. The bulk of the article was about, a site which had huge popularity with the medical marijuana initiative in South Dakota.

Anyway, I'm bored so I've included some of the comments from the post I started.

johnnie w. said...

As I tried to explain on here a few times, the most popular group in South Dakota this election cycle was Support SoDak Medical Marijuana.

Did the final vote total surprise you PP? Almost 158,000 voters (48%) chose YES on IM4 despite Rounds, AGLong, "sheriffs" and the federal goons campaigning against the measure.

Expect to see it again.
8:15 AM

Anonymous said...

It'll pass. It's only a matter of time.
9:20 AM

Anonymous said...

8:15, the facebook popularity of the marijuana amendment was likely from younger people and others who wanted marijuana for recreational, not medicinal, purposes. And it would sure be nice if we didn't have to go through this again.
9:56 AM

Anonymous said...

48% of South Dakotans supported Measure 4, anon 9:56. If a few problems with the bill are fixed, why wouldn't you want SD voters to have another chance to pass it?
10:06 AM

Anonymous said...

I didn't watch a lot of TV during prime campaign time - was there any organized opposition to IM4 that ran ads? I only saw the ad with the Desert Storm lady in favor of it. I saw print ads from both sides, but only TV in favor of IM4. Can anyone enlighten me?
10:14 AM

Anonymous said...

I don't think there were any TV ads opposed to the medical marijuana initiative. There were some print and radio ads opposed to it, but none on TV that I saw or heard about.

Supporters of medical marijuana are hopeful that the new Dem-controlled Congress will vote to prohibit federal prosecution of state-authorized medical marijuana patients. They have a pretty good chance of accomplishing that goal, too.
10:44 AM

johnnie w. said...

There were NO tv ads against the medical marijuana measure.

The main opposition to medical marijuana in South Dakota came from Larry Long. Long, in his capacity as AG, was sued regarding the ballot language. Judge Gors in Pierre found his language misleading. No surprise here.

As the campaign drew closer to election time, Long backed away from his arguments against the measure (children would be smoking pot, more recretional use) and turned to the language of the ballot measure as a cop out.

I've talked to numerous friends and family that were surprised that their Republican friends (silently) supported the measure. Medical marijuana actually garnered a majority of the votes in the largest county, Minnehaha.

Again, expect medical marijuana on the ballot again in 2008. That is unless the SD legislature enacts a bill allowing for such medical use this upcoming session.
11:02 AM

Anonymous said...

What we forget about the medical marijuan issue is there is a legal alternative. Marinol, a synthetic form of THC, has been prescribed by docotors since the mid 1980's. This needs to be brought up in the future shoulf there be another initiated measure of this kind.
12:03 PM

Anonymous said...

Medical marijuana patients, almost to the last one of them, prefer smoked marijuana to Marinol.

There are a number of reasons for that, not the least of which is the fact that Marinol is close to 100% THC, while smoked marijuana is less than 20% THC. THC is the medically active component of marijuana, but it's also the part that produces the psychoactive side effects. It's the part that recreational pot smokers are after.

Medical users don't like Marinol because it's so high in THC that the psychoactive effects are overwhelming, diminishing the therapeutic, medicinal effects. In other words, they get stoned out of their minds, when that's not what they're looking for. They're looking for nausea relief, or appetite stimulation, or alleviation of pain. They're not looking to get high.

This alone should be proof to a reasonable person that medical marijuana isn't a front for the recreational users. If they were looking to get high, Marinol would be their thing. But they're looking for something entirely different, and that something is best delivered by way of smoked marijuana, not Marinol.

Besides, Marinol is like $2 a pill. Why should a patient have to pay such an outrageous price for something they can grow for free in their backyard, next to the corn and tomatoes? Why is the synthetic version preferable to the natural one?

If you've ever wondered why the feds keep medical marijuana illegal in spite of the overwhelming anecdotal evidence that it does, in fact, have valid therapeutic, medicinal value, look no further than the Big Pharma industry and the Almighty Dollar. If they're making $2 a pill for Marinol -- and the thousands of other FDA approved drugs people take instead of marijuana -- they have a vested financial interest in keeping free, homegrown marijuana illegal.

In DC, money talks. And Big Pharma has as much money as anyone.
2:45 PM

Anonymous said...

I don't understand. If Marinol is 100% THC - the medically active part of marijuana - then why wouldn't patients prefer that instead of smoking the rest of the marijuana plant that I would assume is at the very least harmful to the lungs? I looked at the Marinol website, and it says there are 3 doses available - 2.5, 5, and 10 mg. I'd think that if the patient is having problems with side effects, a smaller dosage might help that.

I'm no doctor, but seems to me that an FDA approved drug that's regulated to have a certain amount of the medically effective component would be preferable to patients growing their own plants with varying levels of THC and smoking it.

I guess my question would be why does marijuana need to be legal if there are prescription THC pills available?
3:52 PM

Anonymous said...

"If Marinol is 100% THC - the medically active part of marijuana - then why wouldn't patients prefer that instead of smoking the rest of the marijuana plant..."

I'm not a medical marijuana patient, so I can't speak from experience, but I know people who are, and I have talked to them about their experience. They say that Marinol just doesn't work as well as smoked marijuana. Simple as that.

One reason for this is that Marinol, even in the smaller doses, is more psychoactive than smoked marijuana. In other words, they get all stoned out on Marinol, but that's not why they're taking it. So it's an undesirable side effect, more undesirable than with the natural substance.

There are other reasons. If you're truly interested in this question, check out this study:

"...that I would assume is at the very least harmful to the lungs?"

As counterintuitive as this may sound, it turns out that smoking marijuana is not harmful to the lungs. A recent study came out which revaled as much. Here's a link to the Washington Post article about the study:

And here's a quote from the article:
"The largest study of its kind has unexpectedly concluded that smoking marijuana, even regularly and heavily, does not lead to lung cancer."

"I guess my question would be why does marijuana need to be legal if there are prescription THC pills available?"

Well, if you really want the answer to that question, read the study I linked to above and reach your own conclusions. All I know for sure is that the anecdotal evidence, including all the patients I've talked to, prefer smoked marijuana to Marinol, almost to the last one of them.

These people are not smoking pot to get high. If you knew a bona fide medical marijuana patient, you'd realize this. The diseases for which marijuana has therapeutic value are horrible, awful diseases. When an MS patient, crippled from debilitating pain, tells you that marijuana makes her feel "1000 times better" than any other drug, including Marinol, you'd believe her.

The reason there isn't anything beyond anecdotal evidence is because the Feds won't let scientists study medical marijuana, for the reasons stated in my previous comment, i.e., money and big pharma.)
4:46 PM

Sunday, November 26, 2006

M. Friedman knew best

From Robyn Blumner at the Star Tribune:

In 1971, when Richard Nixon declared his "War on Drugs," calling for harsher penalties and stricter enforcement of drug laws, the renowned Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman had a John Lennon moment. He suggested we give peace a chance.

To Friedman, who died earlier this month at 94, drug prohibition was unsound public policy, economic insanity and inherently immoral. It wasn't the drug user who was immoral, as the political world asserted with so much vim and vinegar, the immorality stemmed from making users into criminals.

In a Newsweek article Friedman wrote in 1972, he took a step outside his realm of monetary policy and free marketeering and laid out in clear, unequivocal terms what kind of social disaster we were buying with Nixon's drug war. Thirty years later, we know he couldn't have been more right.

Friedman's views emanated from libertarianism. He resented the government's interference in an adult's free will. But the economist in him also recognized the inexorable market forces that drove the illicit drug trade. He understood that as long as there was demand there would be supply, and by making drugs illegal, those enriched by the drug trade would be a violent, corrupting element of society.

In 1989, in a famous exchange he had on the pages of the Wall Street Journal with then-Drug Czar William Bennett, Friedman told Bennett that the prohibitionist's model was doomed to fail and would grind up freedom in the process.

"The path you propose of more police, more jails, use of the military in foreign countries, harsh penalties for drug users, and a whole panoply of repressive measures can only make a bad situation worse. The drug war cannot be won by those tactics without undermining the human liberty and individual freedom that you and I cherish."

Bennett apparently didn't see the hypocrisy in cherishing his freedom to gamble, while waging war against the rights of others to engage in their own personal vices. "The Book of Virtues" author who reportedly lost millions in Atlantic City and Las Vegas (Bennett must equate "moral" with technically legal), was a drug warrior of the first order, dismissing Friedman's legalization prescription as "irresponsible and reckless."

We've followed the Nixon/Bennett drug-war model for 30 years and what we have to show for it was predictable from Day One.

Those who have gotten rich on the illicit drug trade are drug lords and their cartels who use violence to control their enterprise. The money that flows from the illegal sales corrupts everything it touches from the cops on the beat to entire countries like Colombia. Drug use has not been curbed, yet our prisons have filled up with low-level dealers and users.

We have spent $1 trillion on the drug war since 1972 and we arrest 1.7 million people for nonviolent drug offenses every year. When you put a rapist in prison another one doesn't get recruited to take his place, but that is precisely what happens in drug dealing. Take one guy off the streets and that becomes a job opportunity for someone else in the neighborhood.

And despite this huge interdiction, enforcement and imprisonment apparatus that we have shoveled money into over the last 30 years, illicit drugs have become cheaper and more available.

Albert Einstein is credited with saying that insanity is "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result." We must really be nuts.

Friedman wasn't the only brilliant economist to make the case for drug legalization. Nobel laureate Gary Becker wrote a column in Business Week in 2001 titled "It's Time to Give Up the War on Drugs."

Then, in 2005, Dr. Jeffrey Miron, a visiting professor at Harvard, published a report which called for replacing marijuana prohibition with a taxation and regulation scheme. It was endorsed by more than 500 distinguished economists.

Miron found that government could save between $10 billion and $14 billion annually if marijuana were legalized and taxed. As the Marijuana Policy Project noted, that would be enough to secure the former Soviet Union's "loose nukes" within three years. If safety and security is the goal, where would a yearly sum of $10 billion be better spent?

Since his death, Friedman has been lovingly eulogized by the nation's premier conservative voices, but few have lauded his bold and visionary understanding of the drug war. Legalization of drugs is Friedman's best economic and moral thesis that has been left untried; and one day, when courage returns to politics and we take this sensible step, experience will bear that out.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Brighter Days Ahead

I'm too lazy at this point to reflect on the election. I've made the case for months, we just came up a little short.

I did speak to a friend of mine this morning whose folks still live in Pierre and we got to talking about the election. He indicated he was surprised how many of his parents' (old guard Republicans) friends supported the measure. Another friend of mine from Sioux Falls has emailed me the same sort of idea. That is, of course, medical marijuana is not a partisan issue: liberals, conservatives, libertarians, gays, straights, Native, non-Native, west-river, east-river, etc. Janklow Republicans were as likely support the measure as were Newland libertarians.

For the next election, we need to reach out to the rural communities. The counties starting with an "H" were particulary low in their support.

Bottom line: The issue of medical marijuana isn't going away. Larry Long can't make it disappear. AG Long and Governor Rounds can continue to speak out against medical marijuana but, in effect, these bureaucrats are only prolonging the reality of marijuana as a medicine and, more importantly, prolonging the suffering of persons with debilitating medical conditions.

Medical Marijuana will be legal in South Dakota soon. Common sense and science will prevail.


Medical Marijuana Continues to Advance Despite Narrow South Dakota Loss

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The narrow, 48 percent to 52 percent defeat of South Dakota͇s medical marijuana initiative will not affect steady progress toward nationwide protection for medical marijuana patients, officials of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) in Washington, D.C. said today. They pointed to other results showing strong support for medical marijuana, polls showing strong support for the 11 existing state medical marijuana laws, a growing consensus in the medical community that marijuana does have therapeutic value, and a new Congress that will be much more receptive to legislation to protect patients.

"For the first time since states began passing medical marijuana laws in 1996, we will have a speaker of the House who supports protecting medical marijuana patients," said MPP Director of Government Relations Aaron Houston. New Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has been a strong supporter of the Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment, aimed at ending federal attacks on medical marijuana patients in states where medical use of marijuana is permitted. She also was a cosponsor of the States͇ Rights to Medical Marijuana Act, introduced by Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA).

In addition, Houston noted, at least 20 medical marijuana opponents were defeated, while several new House members are expected to be supporters. Notably, the House seat formerly held by Harold Ford (D-TN), a consistent "no" vote on Hinchey-Rohrabacher, now goes to Stephen Cohen, who introduced medical marijuana legislation as a Tennessee state senator. Cohen was attacked for that position during the Democratic primary, but won both the primary and yesterday͇s general election easily.

The South Dakota initiative, Initiated Measure 4 faced intense opposition from the White House and much of South Dakota͇s political establishment, including Attorney General Larry Long. Supporters, however, say they aren't giving up.

"We knew from the early polling that this would be an uphill fight, particularly on a ballot filled with hot-button issues, and with the White House and the whole state establishment, including the attorney general, against us," said MPP Executive Director Rob Kampia. "The fact that we came this close against such powerful opposition is remarkable. Working with the local activists who started this effort, we plan to try again with another medical marijuana initiative in South Dakota in November 2008 or 2010.

"Every day, science continues to prove the medical value of marijuana. In just the last two months we͇ve seen evidence of remarkable benefit against hepatitis C and even potential against Alzheimer’s disease. It͇s tragic that brave patients like Val Hannah, who spoke out for the initiative, will continue to face arrest and jail for simply trying to preserve their health, but in the long run, science and common sense will triumph over ignorance and fear."

A study published in the September European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology found that hepatitis C patients who used medical marijuana were three times more likely than those who didn͇t use marijuana to successfully clear the deadly virus from their bloodstream.

The opposition campaign claimed that Measure 4 would increase teen drug use and would legalize marijuana even for non-patients. Such claims were raised when California passed the first effective medical marijuana law in 1996, but have not been borne out by experience in any medical marijuana state, including Montana, which passed a proposal nearly identical to Measure 4 in 2004. Recent polling in California and the 10 other medical marijuana states found strong support for the laws. For details, see

In other results Tuesday, voters in two Massachusetts legislative districted expressed support for medical marijuana by two-to-one margins, and voters in Albany, California, voted to permit a medical marijuana dispensary in their city.

With more than 20,000 members and 100,000 e-mail subscribers nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. MPP believes that the best way to minimize the harm associated with marijuana is to regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. For more information, please visit

Whose Johnnie W.?

That's me of course, Eddie, co-founder of the blog.

The pseudoynm (sp?) is more playful than anything.

Kinda a joke at the prohibition of marijuana yet legal use of alcohol by adults.

Monday, November 13, 2006

State Legislature and Medical Marijuana

What are the chances the South Dakota State legislature will take up the issue of medical marijuana in the 2007 session in January in Pierre?

Any mavericks going to the capital city this next session for a real fight?

Who in Pierre this upcoming session is willing to speak for Val?

Nearly 158,000 South Dakotans (or 48% of the total vote) voted YES on IM4.

In 2005, 1 in 12 state legislatures voted yes on the medical marijuana bill.

Anybody wonder why this issue has to be taken to state-wide vote?

With respect to medical marijuana, there is NO REPRESENTATION in Pierre!

No doubt the extremists will be in Pierre in January fighting the "baby killers." Oh lordy, somebody help this right-wing nutcases.

When does the initiative-signing start for 2008?

Nearly 158,000 voted YES on IM4

From StoptheDrugWar.Org

In an unexpectedly strong showing, an initiative that would have allowed seriously ill patients to use marijuana garnered nearly half the votes in the socially conservative Upper Midwest state of South Dakota. But it couldn't quite get over the top, losing by a margin of 48% to 52%. South Dakota thus earns the distinction of being the only state where voters have rejected medical marijuana at the ballot box.

Backers of the effort, while disappointed, are undeterred, and have already announced they will try again in 2008 or 2010. But the state will remain a tough nut to crack.

A stark illustration of the political atmosphere in the state when it comes to marijuana was the fact that South Dakotans for Medical Marijuana, the initiative organizers, could only come up with two patients willing to go public about their marijuana use. But perhaps that should be no surprise in a state where "ingestion" of marijuana is a criminal offense for which people are routinely sentenced to jail time and a public acknowledgment of one's marijuana use could became the basis for a search warrant demanding a urine sample, which would then be used to file ingestion charges.

The measure won majority support in Minnehaha County (52%), where nearly a quarter of the state's voters reside, the college town environs of Brookings County (52%) and Clay County (62%), Gateway Computers' home Union County (51%), the Black Hills' Lawrence County (52%), and a handful of other sparsely populated West River counties. But in most of the state's East River farm country counties, voters rejected the measure, sometimes narrowly, but occasionally by large margins, and even Pennington County, the home of Rapid City, the state's second largest city, voted narrowly against it (51%).

While initiative supporters ran a relatively low-profile campaign -- the state's ballot was full of hot button issues, including an abortion ban and a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage -- opponents led by Republican South Dakota Attorney General Larry Long rallied local law enforcement in opposition to the measure. Long also called in the big guns from Washington, DC, bringing White House Office on National Drug Control Policy Deputy Director Scott Burns to the state for a series of widely publicized press conferences denouncing the measure as a "con" and a "sham."

Drug czar John Walters himself weighed in on the state initiative with a press release the Friday before the election. "This proposal is a scam being pushed on the citizens of South Dakota by people who want to legalize drugs," Walters warned. "Marijuana is a much more harmful drug than many Americans realize. There are more teens now in treatment for marijuana dependence than for all other illegal drugs combined. It is unfortunate that people who have been trying to legalize this drug for many years are exploiting the suffering of genuinely sick people to further their political ends."

The intervention by South Dakota law enforcement and federal drug warriors was key in preventing the measure from passing, said initiative spokesperson and medical marijuana patient Valerie Hannah, a Gulf War veteran who uses the drug to ease the symptoms of neurological disorders she suffers as a result of her service. "Attorney General Long bringing in the drug czar's people really hurt us," she told Drug War Chronicle. "They said things like having a caregiver just meant somebody to get high with, which is just not the case."

For the national marijuana reform movement, the South Dakota loss -- its first at the polls -- was a tough blow, but movement leaders vowed to try again. "We knew from the early polling that this would be an uphill fight, particularly on a ballot filled with hot-button issues, and with the White House and the whole state establishment, including the attorney general, against us," said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), which provided support for the South Dakota effort. "The fact that we came this close against such powerful opposition is remarkable. Working with the local activists who started this effort, we plan to try again with another medical marijuana initiative in South Dakota in November 2008 or 2010," he announced.

"Every day, science continues to prove the medical value of marijuana," Kampia continued. "In just the last two months we've seen evidence of remarkable benefit against hepatitis C and even potential against Alzheimer's disease. It's tragic that brave patients like Val Hannah, who spoke out for the initiative, will continue to face arrest and jail for simply trying to preserve their health, but in the long run, science and common sense will triumph over ignorance and fear."

"South Dakota's result, while disheartening, does nothing to change the fact that according to national polls, nearly eight out of ten Americans support the physician-approved use of medicinal cannabis," said Paul Armentano, senior policy analyst for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

Sick people like Hannah remain at risk of arrest and imprisonment for using marijuana to relieve their symptoms, but she refused to be saddened by the outcome. "I'm proud of what we did. We came very close, and this means people here are waking up. The South Dakotans who supported us made a wise choice. Next time, we will be working to get the education and knowledge out to the public more efficiently so they can make a more informed decision," she said. "We can pass this in South Dakota, perhaps through another ballot initiative in 2008. I remain hopeful," she added.

Medical Marijuana Reform

Last Tuesday's election has changed the political climate in Washington and there is certainly a buzz (no pun intended, of course) that drug law reform including medical marijuana reform will take hold on a national level. The Democrats takeover of the legislative branches means chairmanships -- huge leverage in determining what gets actual debate and what doesn't. The New Senate and House will definetly reconsider the Hinchey amendment that would end DEA funding to states that have enacted medical marijuana. The passage of such a law would be a huge blow to the drug czar's archaic, immoral attempts to criminally prosecute medical marijuana patients.

The testimony of one:

I am a medical marijauna person. With high regards for all people of this country the United States of America. I do have a Doctors recomendation and hold a Medical Marijauna card in my wallet from California. But this does not seem to matter to the Federal Government. They send young men to die for oil. And back Countries which torture and kill innocent civilians. We need a new Government which listens to the people and not their daddies or the Supreme court. It is time for a change in our Government's policy about everything it does and who it punishes and those whom they do nothing about.

Friday, November 10, 2006

So Close -- We'll Be Back

Election night wore me out. When the first precincts came in, IM4 was ahead. It was the most exhilarating feeling. Slowly, as the night proceeded and the numbers came in, it was evident medical marijuana would be defeated. But oh so close.

In fact, we carried the largest county in the state, Minnehaha, by over 2,000 votes, and lost the second largest county, Pennington, by just 37 votes. See the complete county-by-county results here. A large percentage of the votes against IM4 built up in rural, older populations -- and in some of these counties we received only 37-42% of the vote. These communities need to be targeted for the next election. Speaking of which, this blog will continue to operate.

After contacting Neal, he suggested we leave it up. Warning: posting will be (very) light in the immediate future. Also I have disabled the comments section for the most part because some idiot abused the opportunity to have a meaningful dialogue. Rumor has it that the anonymous poster was Larry Long, but frankly I doubt it.

To all those supporters: Thank you!!!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

From the Official Campaign Website

South Dakotans for Medical Marijuana

157,956 South Dakota voters -- 48% -- voted for the medical marijuana initiative, Initiated Measure 4, on November 7. But, unfortunately, these compassionate votes were not quite enough to protect South Dakota's seriously ill patients from being arrested for using medical marijuana with their doctors' advice.

Studies have shown that marijuana can alleviate vomiting and wasting caused by cancer and AIDS treatments, spasms caused by multiple sclerosis, debilitating pain, and glaucoma symptoms. Many doctors recommend that their patients use marijuana for medical purposes when other prescriptions have failed. But, sadly, brave patients like nerve gas victim Valerie Hannah and multiple sclerosis patient Cynthia Siragusa will continue to face arrest and jail for simply trying to preserve their health.

Initiated Measure 4 was closely based on Montana's medical marijuana law. It would have allowed seriously ill patients and their caregivers to possess and cultivate limited amounts of marijuana for the patients' medical use. Patients would have sent their doctors' written certification to the department of health to obtain a registry ID card that would have protected them from arrest under state law.

Although the vote is disappointing, it is only a matter of time before science and compassion prevail in South Dakota. South Dakotans for Medical Marijuana is planning on giving voters another chance to protect patients from arrest in 2008 or 2010.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Truth About Eddie

No bold predictions about tomorrow. Just hope. Quiet hope.

Whether or not Initiated Measure 4 passes, I will be satisfied if you take just one thing away from this: medical marijuana is real. There really are people who suffer from serious diseases and who obtain the best relief possible from smoked marijuana. Crazy, right? But it's true.

We might not have been able to convince you of that through our words here, but one day maybe you'll have the unfortunate privilege of knowing a medical marijuana patient, and that, really, will make all the difference. When someone you know and trust tells you that marijuana relieves their symptoms "1000 times better than any other drug," you will believe them. When an MS sufferer tells you that -- when you're certain they're not smoking it to get high, but rather because it really is the only thing that works for them -- you'll believe them. It's only a matter of time.

Until then, I want you to know one thing about Eddie. I don't know Eddie, other than a few conversations we've had and the work we've done together on this blog. Loyal readers will remember that Eddie started this blog, and I came along much later and resurrected it. But here's the truth about Eddie: the guy is a fucking saint. He has absolutely no personal stake in this. He doesn't suffer from a debilitating medical condition; he's not pushing IM4 as a way to get marijuana legalized for recreational purposes; and he's not even in SD to take advantage of this if it passes.

Nevertheless, Eddie has devoted countless hours working on this issue -- whether it was collecting signatures to get IM4 on the ballot, or talking to friends, or creating and writing on this blog -- every one of them in selfless devotion to a cause that is bigger than himself. He didn't make a dime because of this. He stands to gain nothing if IM4 passes.

Yet he is as devoted as anyone is to any cause out there. He is devoted to helping people suffering from terrible afflictions get safe access to the medicine that works best for them. Eddie is a compassionate, merciful, kind-hearted soul. Eddie is a saint. You can say and think what you want about him. You can vote 100 times against medical marijuana. Nothing changes that fact: Eddie is a saint.

I'm a better person for having gotten to know Eddie in this process. The world is a better place because of him, regardless of whether or not Initiated Measure 4 passes tomorrow.

That's the Truth about Eddie.

It's been fun, my friend. God bless ya.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Have a Heart -- Vote YES on 4

After a back and forth exchange with an ignorant anonymous commenter (See under 'Will Initiated Measure 4 Pass'), HAVE A HEART came to the rescue with this most excellent post (slightly edited):

My question to you is how you can not open your eyes and look at the real issue here. There comes a point in life to come out from beyond the little box you live in and take a good hard look at what life is about.

Do you enjoy getting up in the morning and feeling good? Ready to start your day and bullshit with people throughout the day? Talk on the phone with a friend and have a good laugh? Eating a delicious meal and taking in the beautiful fall colors of South Dakota?

It is sad to think that people like you can't find anything inside your hearts to realize that some people are suffering so bad and marijuana is the only thing that can ease that suffering and give them a chance to enjoy these everyday activities in the society you are so dearly contributing to.

Have you ever watched someone die from one of these debilitating medical conditions? I have. More than once and there is no way in hell that you could deny them a chance to relieve their pain for even 1 hour. Yes this issue has to be debated because it is politics that will decide on it but try and educated yourself by looking outside your comfortable right wing views and have alittle compassion. We only have one life and if enjoying it means smoking a joint to ease the pain then so be it.

Medical Marijuana Email

I received this email from my friend. I'd encourage you to send it to your friends.

Dear Friend:

I wanted to send you a quick note about Initiated Measure 4, which would protect seriously ill people who use marijuana with their doctor’s certification from being arrested. I am not sure where you stand on this issue, but I encourage you to think about it before you cast your vote. And as you think about it, please consider the reasons why I plan to vote “yes” on Measure 4.

Even though the medical use of marijuana can save lives, under South Dakota law, seriously ill patients face a year in prison and a $2,000 fine for its use. FDA-approved studies show that medical marijuana relieves nausea, vomiting, and wasting — which cause about 20% of cancer deaths. And the American Public Health Association reported marijuana’s effectiveness at relieving multiple sclerosis spasms, debilitating pain, seizures, and glaucoma.

There are some terribly ill patients who simply do not respond to other medicines. That’s what the Institute of Medicine found in a White-House commissioned study on medical marijuana. It’s cruel and senseless that these patients currently face arrest for preserving their health.

Initiated Measure 4 is similar to laws that are protecting patients in 11 states — including Montana. It would protect seriously ill patients from being arrested for using medical marijuana. Seriously ill patients would send in their doctors’ certification to the department of health and receive an ID card to allow law enforcement to quickly and easily verify their registration. The measure is closely based on Montana’s law, which is working well and protecting 250 registered patients.

Contrary to some concerns, teen marijuana use has decreased — not increased — overall in medical marijuana states. And in 2002, the investigative arm of Congress found that medical marijuana laws had little impact on most law enforcement agents’ activities.

The American Nurses Association, the American Public Health Association, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Episcopal Church, and the Methodist Church all support allowing the medical use of marijuana. And more than 170 South Dakota health care professionals support this compassionate initiative.

Obviously, how you vote on this is a personal matter. But I hope you will keep these thoughts in mind when you go cast your vote. I’ll be voting yes on Measure 4.

All Souls Procession

Two days till the election!!

My girlfriend Kimmy and I just returned from the All Souls Procession Parade. Read about it here. Thousands and thousands of people. Very neat and interesting.

What does this have do to with medical marijuana in South Dakota, I hear you cry. Well, quite frankly, not much but I thought I'd share some pictures nontheless.

Medical Marijuana opponent Larry Long makes a surprise appearance:

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Will Initiated Measure 4 Pass?

I think there are a lot of people who are thinking "this thing has no shot" while at the same time voting Yes for it. I've talked to dozens like that. Everyone I talk to says it's doomed. But everyone I talk to says they voted Yes.

I think we could surprise some people next week, Eddie.

We only need half, you know. Half plus one.

It's not out of the question.

KELOLAND Compares Initiated Measure 4 to Montana's Medical Marijuana Law

This is a great article:

In one week, South Dakotans will decide whether to legalize marijuana for medical uses. And if history is any indication, the measure could very well pass. Nationally, medical marijuana has never been voted-down as a ballot measure.

Voters supported it in the eight states: California, Montana, Alaska, Colorado, Nevada, Maine, Washington, Nevada.

And legislators made it legal in three states: Vermont, Hawaii, Rhode Island.

And one of the laws is nearly identical to the one on the South Dakota ballot. In Montana, 62 percent of voters supported a law to legalize medical marijuana in 2004.

Since South Dakota law enforcement has some serious concerns about what would happen if the same measure passes here, we did some checking to find out what kind of impact it's had in Montana.

South Dakota Law enforcement leaders believe the medical marijuana measure would make it too easy for anyone to get their hands on pot.

"It is written in the interest of those truly suffering but also to allow open access to anyone who says they suffer from chronic pain," says Minnehaha County Sheriff Mike Milstead.

But in Montana, where the same law with the same wording has already been in effect for 2 years, only 260 people are registered to use it. And Roy Kemp, the man in charge of the registry, says people without serious illness don't abuse the law because a doctor has to sign off on their medical records.

"Generally speaking, that does not occur. So no, it hasn't been a problem," says Kemp, the licensing bureau chief for Montana's Department of Public Health and Human Services.

South Dakota Attorney General Larry Long sees the wording differently. He thinks it's vague enough that people with minor injuries could just send in medical records and get the immunity to use marijuana.

Kemp says it's as simple as making sure the doctor recommends the pot. "If there is no statement such as that in the medical record, then I cannot consider the medical record as a basis for qualifying a patient," Kemp says. "I don't think the landscape has changed because of this act."

Milstead doesn't think it's worth the risk.

"Let the proponents introduce a law that is truly medical marijuana that uses a prescription from a physician," Milstead says.

It's important to note this bill does not create "prescriptions" for marijuana, because it is against federal law to prescribe marijuana. But it makes it legal for people with a doctor's recommendation to have it. They have to grow themselves or find their own way to get it and that's the biggest problem they're having in Montana.

One Case of Abuse

In the last two years, only one man has broken the law then used medical marijuana as his defense. But the jury didn't buy it.

58-year-old Gary Ashley was convicted last month of having drugs and planning to dealing them.

Police arrested Ashley in Butte, Montana, last Dember after finding more than four pounds of marijuana in his house. Ashley was registered in California to use medical marijuana, and the Montana law honors other states' registration cards.

But the Montana law (like the proposed South Dakota law) only allows one ounce or six plants of the drug. So the jury decided Ashley violated the law by having too much pot.

Ashley faces up to 20 years in prison.

This is how it could be in South Dakota. A small handfull of extremely ill patients who qualify under the measure, and the same strong penalties for people who break the law.

The medical marijuana program is going well in Montana. The Montana law is identical to Initiated Measure 4. 62% of Montanans voted in favor of medical marijuana in 2002.

In spite of what Larry Long and the rest of the close-minded, fear-mongering opponents of IM4 are saying, there is nothing to be afraid of if medical marijuana is legal in South Dakota.

Show some compassion for the small amount of seriously ill patients who would qualify under this measure if it passes. Vote Yes on Initiated Measure 4.

Another article from the Yankton Press & Dakotan on IM4

Here it is (and don't forget that the Yankton P&D has endorsed IM4):

Federal Official Criticizes Medical Marijuana Issue

Associated Press Writer

SIOUX FALLS -- A medical marijuana ballot issue in South Dakota is being supported by people who want to legalize drugs, a top federal drug official said Friday.

John Walters, director of National Drug Control Policy in Washington, said people who have been trying to legalize marijuana are exploiting the suffering of genuinely sick people to further their political ends.

South Dakota would join 11 other states that allow some medical patients to smoke marijuana to ease their pain and other medical problems if voters approve Initiated Measure 4 on Tuesday.

Diseases and conditions that would be covered include: cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, severe or chronic pain, severe nausea, seizures, severe or persistent muscle spasms and multiple sclerosis. The state Department of Health also could approve other medical conditions.

Valerie Hannah of Deerfield, who smokes marijuana to help ease chronic pain, said Walters' comments are without merit and amount to last-minute scare tactics.

"I'm one of those people who have been trying to get this drug legalized for those sick people," said Hannah, who served in the Persian Gulf War in the early 1990s and was exposed to chemical weapons that are basically causing her nerves to dissolve.

She called marijuana "an innocuous and harmless weed" and that drug officials' statements about the ballot issue have "just gotten really silly."

In a release, Walters said the Food and Drug Administration, the American Medical Association, the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society do not support the smoked form of marijuana as medicine.

Walters said there are more teenagers in treatment for marijuana dependence than for all other illegal drugs combined. The Office of National Drug Control Policy release did not provide figures on teenage treatment.

"Marijuana is a much more harmful drug than many Americans realize," he said.

But Hannah said in the 11 states that have legalized the substance, marijuana use among teens has gone down 15 percent to 45 percent, depending on the state. She said that in Rhode Island, where the Legislature approved medical marijuana, only one incident of abuse was reported among 136 people who registered for the substance in a year.

That person was prosecuted, just as what would happen in South Dakota if anything went wrong, she said.

Medical Marijuana Momentum

The election on Tuesday is waning and the support for medical marijuana has more momentum than I could ever imagine.

I just got off the phone with a friend of mine, a young lawyer in Sioux Falls, who informed me he voted YES on 4 Friday. He said that his parents voted for the measure as well and that five years ago his parents would have never considered voting yes on such an issue. Times have changed fellow readers. And the change is good.

Educating the public -- that's what this issue has been all about. If you read the opposition against medical marijuana, you will find they're all over the place. Let's quickly review: More drug use, not FDA-approved, hard to enforce, blah blah blah.

We in support of this measure have maintained the truth and I take great solace in that fact. The medical science and testimonial evidence is the heart of Initiated Measure 4.

The young lawyer I talked to said everyone he has talked to (and he's a "talking-type") supports IM4. I couldn't agree more. The word on the street is positive. This measure makes sense.

The vote on Tuesday will be close. Please inform everyone you know that we need their vote. YES on 4!

Earth to George

Friday, November 03, 2006

Democrat SD Governor Candidate Says YES on Medical Marijuana

From the Jack Billion for Governor website:

Medical Marijuana (Initiated Measure 4)

"People in pain deserve mercy and safe, humane treatment."

I will vote yes on Initiated Measure 4.

As you may know, research shows marijuana as treatment for disease or illness is an effective, safe and relatively inexpensive alternative to drugs which has fewer harmful side effects than other much higher priced drugs.

As a physician, this is an issue which should result from a decision made by doctors and their patients. In cases where definitive results can be proved, then the medical profession should make this choice - not the state's politicians. Research has also shown that the allegation that medical marijuana would be controlled just as any other drug.

Rhetorically, if you take the position that it shouldn't be legalized for medical uses only, then you might as well ban all other drugs which would have a possible recreational purpose if they fall in the wrong hands. It is a bogus argument intended only to stir the political pot, while people who suffer from cancer, glaucoma and other painful conditions go broke buying much more costly drugs which offer far more harmful side effects.

Frankly, I don't know why there has to be a public vote on a medically-safe treatment which is rarely prescribed. My hope is that this is not abused as a political rhubarb to flog the medical community. People in pain deserve mercy and safe, humane treatment.

I only wish current South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds was this enlightened.

Consider for a moment, Governor Round's position on IM4:

“Personally, I will vote NO on this proposal because marijuana leads to more dangerous drug abuse. Many crimes, some of them violent, are committed by drug abusers. Also, we should never send the message to our young people that marijuana is OK — in any way, shape or form.”

Wow, who do you believe on this issue? The insurance agent/bureaucrat or a doctor?
Tough decision I realize but I think maybe, just maybe, Dr. Billion's position on medical marijuana makes more sense.


Dr. Billion had my vote long before I knew his position on medical marijuana. I'm by no means a single-issue voter, but this comment of compassion for sick people by Jack shows why he deserves to be the next Governor of South Dakota. Furthermore, I would encourage all supporters of Initiated Measure 4 to "Back Jack."

Thank you, Dr. Billion, for your kind words and support.

Medical Marijuana in the Midweek Update

For ten years now, my uncle Parker Knox has put together the Midweek Update. Read about Parker and the MWU history here. I'd encourage you to subscribe if you're from Pierre or know people from Pierre. The Midweek Update reaches between 1,200 and 1,400 people most of whom are from Pierre or graduated from Riggs High or Parker's friends across the country.

Anyway, I emailed Uncle Park a tid-bit about myself recently. I thought I'd share what the Update had to say:

Eddie Welch is a Ph.D. student in American Indian studies at the University of Arizona in Tucson where he earned his undergraduate degree. He is also managing editor of Red Ink Magazine, a student-run publication which focuses on American Indians' creative and intellectual expression through poetry, short stories, photography and art. The magazine's website address is Eddie's girlfriend, Kim de Hueck, is a Spanish and Latin American studies major at the U. of A. They will be driving home for winter break and expect to be in Pierre for two to three weeks. Meanwhile, Eddie has been very involved in Initiated Measure 4 in South Dakota, the medical marijuana law. "I would appreciate it," Eddie said this week, "if you would inform your readers in the Midweek Update that this law is for persons with debilitating medical conditions. It has nothing to do with recreational use of marijuana. The political establishment is against this measure for all the wrong reasons. This law, if passed, would allow a limited number of persons safe and legal access to the medicine that works best for them. Marijuana is medically proven to alleviate the conditions that people suffer from cancer/chemotherapy, glaucoma, Crohn's disease, MS, chronic pain and many others. In fact, a recent study showed marijuana might even slow the process of Alzheimer's disease. It will not be an enforcement nightmare as some people would like you to believe."


The election is fast-approaching and my blogging days are coming to an end. Finally, I will be fully able concentrate on some other projects. Not that blogging is so time-consuming in itself, it's reading the other SD blogs and trying to keep up on the election news in South Dakota. It's been quite a ride.

Before I quit in few days, I'd like to thank Neal for putting in his time and commitment to this worthy cause. Though I've never met the fellow, I can tell by his writing style he is one intellectual dude. I sure appreciate that. It's been a pleasure blogging with you my friend.

In a few days, the State of South Dakota has a chance to make history. Make history for hundreds of people in the state who could benefit from the medicine that works best for them. The M-word makes some people cringe in a conservative-minded place like South Dakota. That's ok. It takes time to reverse decades of government propaganda and big pharm resistance to Marijuana as a Medicine.

All I ask is that you inform yourself on this issue before casting your ballot. Don't simply circle No because Mike Rounds or your local sheriff said to. I think if you educate yourself on both sides of the issue, there's only one way to vote which reflects human compassion and acknowledges the testimonial and scientific evidence of marijuana's therapeutic value.

Thanks for your support.
Please vote Yes on Initiated Measure 4.

Speech-Restrictive Rapid City School

I like what Pete had to say:

It's one thing to ban messages that promote illegal activity. That is perfectly acceptable. But to ban any kind of message (text or image) that advocates political action, particularly while allowing other messages (text and image) promoting political action is content-based censorship and has no place in this country.

And a school superintendent who dismisses such constitutional concerns in this way...

"That's absurd," said Wharton. "I'm not even going to dignify that argument with a response." A ballot initiative does not change the enforcement or the interpretation of a school dress-code regulation, he said.

... should not be involved in educating the youth of this country. Peter Wharton should instead be going back to school to learn some of the basics of being an American.

"It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech . . . at the schoolhouse gates." -- U.S. Supreme Court, Tinker v. Des Moines (1969)

I wish the students would have continued to wear the t-shirts, got expelled, and challenged a draconian school policy that prevents political/free speech. (Oh, I know Principal Wharton, wearing pot leaf shirts with "Vote Yes on Initiated Measure 4" PROMOTES DRUG USE).


Reality is, mom and dad probably didn't think challenging the school policy was a good idea at the expense of school expulsion, and rightfully so.

If they hired the ACLU and challenged, doesn't Tinker carry the day here, Neal? Is there something I'm missing in the case law?

Medical marijuana shirts get students into hot water

From the Rapid City Journal:

RAPID CITY -- Two Steven High School seniors who wore t-shirts to school advocating the passage of Initiated Measure 4, the medical marijuana ballot issue, SAY their rights to political free speech were violated when the school principal confiscated the shirts, which were decorated with the image of a marijuana leaf.David Valenzuela, 17, and Chris Fuentes, 18, were told by a Stevens security guard to remove the shirts as they entered their first period class Oct. 20. Principal Katie Bray confiscated the shirts a short time later.

Rapid City superintendent of schools Peter Wharton said Thursday the incident was a violation of school policy, not political rights.

School policy forbids clothing that displays images of alcohol, drugs or tobacco products on school grounds. That policy is clearly communicated to all students, and it is not effected by what issues may or may not be on the ballot in an election year, Wharton said.

“Unequivocally no. It had nothing to do with political speech,” he said.

Students are allowed to wear political t-shirts and other campaign-related items for candidates and issues, as long as they are appropriate, as determined by school administrators, Wharton said. This fall, numerous SHS students have worn t-shirts with an image of a human fetus and the message “Save a Life, Vote Yes on Referred Law 6.”

“We had been seeing all these abortion shirts at school, and we thought, OK, I guess we can get political,” Valenzuela said of his decision to wear the shirt to school.

Valenzuela’s green, tie-dyed shirt features a white, stylized image of a marijuana leaf, along with the hand-lettered message, “Vote Yes on Initiated Measure 4.”

The wording is allowed, said Wharton, but the image is not. Any student is welcome to advocate for the passage of a law legalizing medical marijuana, as long as they don’t use drug insignia in the process. “Advocate to your heart’s content, but don’t use a marijuana leaf to do it. It’s against school policy.”

“We were told that because the marijuana leaf was drug-related, we weren’t allowed to wear it,” Valenzuela said. “I think it’s very unfair. We’re trying to get our viewpoint out and tell people what it (Initiated Measure 4) is, and we can’t. We’re just trying to spread Measure 4.”

Valenzuela, who is not old enough to vote, argues that the picture of marijuana should be protected as political speech. He was campaigning for a ballot issue, not promoting the use of an illegal drug, he said.

“That’s absurd,” said Wharton. “I’m not even going to dignify that argument with a response.” A ballot initiative does not change the enforcement or the interpretation of a school dress-code regulation, he said.

Bray, who returned the shirts at the end of the school day, threatened the students with suspension from school if they wore the shirts to class again, Valenzuela said.

“We were afraid of being expelled,” he said.

“Then, I would have gotten involved,” said Christine Horan, Valenzuela’s mother, who supported her son’s decision to wear the shirt but made him wear another shirt underneath it, just in case.

“I see it as an issue of free speech. If students are allowed to wear clothing promoting one ballot issue, then all ballot issues should be allowed on shirts,” Horan said.

Valenzuela and Fuentes say they will take Wharton up on his invitation to continue their medical marijuana t-shirt campaign, sans image, in the days leading up to Tuesday’s election.

I wonder if they would have gotten in trouble if they had a picture of a Prozac tablet on their shirts?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

my birthday wish

It's that day again. All Souls Day in Western society, Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) in Mexico.

A special day indeed. I wish for ...

a majority vote on Initiated Measure 4 on Tuesday, November 7, 2006.

Quotes to Ponder

DEA Administrative Law Judge Francis Young: "In strict medical terms marijuana is far safer than many foods we commonly consume. For example, eating 10 raw potatoes can result in a toxic response. By comparison, it is physically impossible to eat enough marijuana to induce death. Marijuana in its natural form is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. By any measure of rational analysis marijuana can be safely used within the supervised routine of medical care."

Bob Dylan: "I can see the day comin' when even your home garden's gonna be against the law."

Upton Sinclair: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it."I, Candidate for Governor: And How I Got Licked (1935)

Peter McWilliams: “Marijuana is the finest anti-nausea medication known to science, and our leaders have lied about this consistently. [Arresting people for] medical marijuana is the most hideous example of government interference in the private lives of individuals. It's an outrage within an outrage within an outrage.”

George Bush (in 1999): "I believe each state can choose that decision [medical marijuana laws] as they so choose."

Medical marijuana patient Angel Raich: "I understand that my case brings up an interesting point of law that fascinates judges and lawyers. But for me, it's a matter of life and death. With cannabis, I can play with my kids, walk without a wheelchair, sometimes even get a few hours sleep at night. Without it, I couldn't go on for very long."

Justice Stevens, writing for the majority in Gonzales v. Raich: “But perhaps even more important than these legal avenues is the democratic process, in which the voices of voters allied with these respondents may one day be heard in the halls of Congress.”

William F. Buckley: "What is depressing is the dim prospect of remedial congressional action. Individual congressmen shun the idea of licensing any use of marijuana, unless they can find a way to say that marijuana eliminates income disparity. But in search of political consensus on the matter, there is nothing clearer than the vote of the legislatures of the ten states that authorized medical marijuana. They did so and survived political vicissitudes. If these ten states can take a progressive position on medical marijuana why can't Congress do as much?"

Medical marijuana patient Valerie Hannah: "If something is illegal, something is illegal. What this bill [Initiated Measure 4] will do is protect people like me from having to forfeit my home or my car or spend a night in jail like I've already done because I'm trying to use an herbal remedy to help with my illness."

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Medical Revolution: Marijuana-Style

Yesterday, the New York Times carried a piece by John Tierney titled "The Immoral Majority." I was unable to link to the article from but I did find the whole article here.

Our readers might find this excerpt of interest:

The Republican war on marijuana -- the chief priority of the current drug czar -- isn't playing any better in the heartland. More than 40 percent of people over the age of 12 have tried marijuana, and more than three-quarters of Americans support legalizing it for medical purposes. The White House and the Justice Department have had little luck in their attempts to stop states from legalizing medical marijuana, but they have succeeded in alienating voters.


They're especially prevalent in the West, where half a dozen states have legalized medical marijuana. When Californians approved one of the first medical marijuana laws, in 1996, drug warriors were so convinced it would lead to a catastrophic spike in illegal use by teenagers that they sponsored a study to document the damage. But there was no catastrophe: after the law, marijuana use by teenagers actually declined in California.

In the decade since, as the Marijuana Policy Project documented in a recent study, popular support for legalized medical marijuana has increased in California and in virtually every other state with a similar law. Last year it was favored by 78 percent of respondents in a Gallup poll.

Yet these realities still haven't registered with Republicans in Washington. This year the White House drug czar, John Walters, and his minions have been out campaigning in Nevada, Colorado and South Dakota, which have marijuana initiatives on the ballot. The drug warriors are still sounding the discredited alarms about youths turning into potheads. Their fervor's not surprising -- they may even believe their own hype.

What's surprising is the political stupidity of the meddling. Westerners, no matter what they think of marijuana, don't appreciate sermons from federal officials on how to vote. In 2002, when the White House campaigned against another marijuana ballot initiative in Nevada, the state's attorney general said it was "disturbing" to see the federal interference in a state election.

HELLO!! 3/4 of Americans support medical marijuana!! If the good people of South Dakota are informed on this issue by November 7th, South Dakota will become the 12th state to enact a medical marijuana law. Aaahhhh...a revolution.

Vote YES on IM4 on Tuesday!

AG Long gets pushed around on Medical Marijuana

Rapid City Journal:

Bill pits attorney general against medical-marijuana proponents

By Ryan Woodard, Journal Staff Writer

Editor’s note: This is another in a series of stories on ballot issues and candidates facing South Dakota voters in the Nov. 7 general election.

Voters will decide next week whether South Dakota citizens should legally be allowed to use medical marijuana to treat symptoms caused by certain medical conditions.

The controversial Initiated Measure 4 would allow people with “debilitating” medical conditions to grow, possess and use small amounts of medical marijuana.

Proponents say the bill would enable those who have painful conditions to legally ease their pain.

“I think it’s very important for all the sick people who want to have choices in the way they treat their medical conditions,” said Valerie Hannah, a Deerfield resident who has used marijuana to ease pain resulting from her exposure to sarin gas during the Gulf War.

Rapid City resident Cynthia Siragusa, a multiple-sclerosis sufferer, agreed.

“I’m a decent person, and I don’t want to be a criminal because I use this to alleviate my pain,” she said.

But opponents of the bill say that it is too broad and would increase the overall use of marijuana.

“My problem with this bill is, this isn’t about just getting marijuana to people who have a serious medical condition,” Attorney General Larry Long said. “This is about getting marijuana to a lot of other people, too.”

“This bill is big enough you can drive a truck through it,” he said.

A primary argument Long has with the bill is section 11, which he has called a “get-out-of-jail-free card.”

The wording in that section states “no qualifying patient or caregiver who possesses a registry identification card issued pursuant to this act may be arrested, prosecuted or penalized in any manner, or be denied any right or privilege.”

The wording, which is designed to protect those who medically use marijuana and those who care for them, allows the holder of the card immunity for any crime, Long said.

Hannah said wording problems with the bill could be fixed after it passes.

“Anything that we have in the disagreement with Mr. Long can be settled by proper channels in the Legislature,” she said.

She said Long could help South Dakotans for Medical Marijuana instead of badmouthing the bill.

“If he would only sit down with our organization and talk about this wording with us … but he hasn’t done that,” she said. “But he’s been very successful in using the wording to scare South Dakotans into thinking his way.”

One of the sponsors of the bill, Hermosa resident Bob Newland, said wording was inadvertently left out.

“The word ‘for any act committed pursuant to this act’ should have been put at the end of that sentence,” Newland said.

Long said he is not interested in fixing the bill in the legislature, especially since the fix couldn’t be done until next summer, when the session closes.

“What are we going to do between November and July?” he asked.

He doesn’t believe that a mistake was made in drafting the bill.

“I’m not willing to give them the benefit of saying that they over drafted it by accident,” Long said. “I think it was carefully drafted by someone who knew exactly what they were doing to make it look like this was a tightly controlled, regulated system that would allow people with serious medical conditions to use marijuana.”

Other points of controversy in the bill have included the severity of illnesses covered under the bill.

“You’re supposed to have a debilitating medical condition,” Long said. “They list a lot of serious ones. But it says any condition that causes chronic pain.”

Long said chronic pain is too broad.

“How many people are going to take advantage of that?” he asked.

Hannah said stipulations in the bill prevent it from being taken advantage of.

“First off, you’ve got to understand the definition of chronic pain,” she said. “You’ve got to be debilitated for over two years and have to have an underlying cause that’s not really curable.”

“So, if a doctor’s being true to himself, he’s not going to write the person with a sprained ankle or a backache a recommendation for this or a certificate for this,” she said.

Siragusa says that M.S. causes her pain on a daily basis — pain that prescription drugs don’t help.

“As far as the symptoms, there really isn’t as much for medicines,” she said.

She said marijuana loosens her up when she wakes up in the morning.

“When I wake up, I’m so stiff, I’m almost paralyzed,” she said.

Medical marijuana bills have been passed in 11 other states, Hannah said.

Long said he has been told Initiated Measure 4 was crafted after those bills, which he has not read and compared with the South Dakota measure.

Initiated Measure 4 would permit the patient and caregiver alike to possess not more than six marijuana plants and 1 ounce of “usable” marijuana.

Medical Marijuana at the "Mount"

Mount Blogmore is hosting a blog forum on medical marijuana. I would encourage our readers to check it out.

Third TV Ad in South Dakota for Initiated Measure 4

Here's the latest ad: