Medical marijuana bill up in smoke

January 28, 2005

Brad Perriello, Aberdeen News

Marijuana should not be legalized for medical purposes in South Dakota, legislators decided Friday.

The House Health Committee voted 11-1 against a bill that would have allowed people with certain debilitating illnesses to use pot.

HB1109 would have given doctors permission to prescribe up to 5 ounces of marijuana for those who suffer from such diseases as cancer, glaucoma and AIDs, and for people with chronic pain, nausea or seizures.

Rep. Gerald Lange, D-Madison, said the bill provides a necessary alternative for patients who do not get relief from traditional medications.

''There are certain debilitating medical conditions that are rather untreatable by contemporary medical practices,'' said Lange, prime sponsor of the bill.

The measure would have required doctors to certify in writing that patients suffer from qualifying diseases and explain the risks and benefits of marijuana use to them. In addition, both doctors and patients would have had to register with the Health Department.

Charlie McGuigan, an assistant state attorney general, urged legislators to reject the bill. He said marijuana use would still be a federal crime if the bill became state law.

Marijuana causes many adverse health effects, McGuigan said, adding that the active ingredient in marijuana is currently available in prescription form.

The state lawyer also said such a law would encourage illegal drug traffic because people would need to buy it somewhere.

''Where is this marijuana going to come from?'' he asked.

South Dakota lawmakers have rejected similar bills numerous times in recent years.

The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to consider a medical marijuana case this summer.




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