South Dakota may get medical marijuana vote

March 20, 2005

Associated Press, Rapid City journal

PIERRE - Bob Newland of Hermosa said he is preparing a ballot initiative for South Dakota voters on whether marijuana use should be allowed for medical purposes.

A bill to legalize medical marijuana died 11-1 in a House committee during this year's legislative session.

In Montana last November, voters approved the Medical Marijuana Act, which protects registered patients and their caregivers from local and state prosecution.

'When I saw that Montana did it, I decided to start a campaign in South Dakota,' Newland said. 'There is no question we can get the signatures in fairly short order. The fact is, medical use has never failed on an initiative.'

Newland, who ran for attorney general as a Libertarian candidate in 2002, supported an unsuccessful attempt to legalize industrial hemp that year. He has until May 2006 to file petitions containing 16,728 valid signatures to put the medical marijuana proposal on the November 2006 ballot.

He can expect strong opposition from Attorney General Larry Long's office if his proposal reaches the ballot. A spokesman for Long said the office's position is contained in statements made at a legislative hearing by Charles McGuigan, an assistant attorney general.

'We are in opposition to any plan to legalize marijuana in any form, whether it is medical marijuana or industrial hemp or any other concoction that would give credence to this substance,' McGuigan said then. 'Marijuana is not scheduled as a controlled substance, but marijuana use and possession is illegal and is a crime.'

South Dakota's Criminal Code Revision Commission considered, but rejected, a medical marijuana proposal last summer.

Rep. Gerald Lange, D-Madison, sponsored the failed medical marijuana bill in the Legislature. The patient's physician would have been required to say that the beneficial impact of marijuana use for a patient would outweigh risks.

'There's a nausea effect in a lot of medicine, where marijuana doesn't cause this kind of side effect,' Lange said.

Ten states have some form of medical marijuana law.

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