South Dakota Voters Say No To Medical Marijuana

For the second time in four years, South Dakota voters refused to pass a medical marijuana law, this time by a much wider margin.

With 603 of 791 precincts reporting Tuesday night, voters rejected Initiated Measure 13 by a 64 percent to 35 percent margin. A similar measure was defeated in 2006 by a much tighter 52 percent to 48 percent.

The final results with 100% of precincts reporting:

No 199,569 votes – 63.31%
Yes 115,649 votes – 36.69%

Measure 13 moved to legalize medical marijuana for people suffering from “debilitating medical conditions.” Under the law, patients could receive recommendations for medical marijuana from a physician. They would then be required to register with the state. Patients could obtain medical marijuana only from state-registered “caregivers.” Each “caregiver” could provide for no more than five patients.

Fourteen other states, including Colorado and Montana, have medical marijuana laws.

Proponents of Initiated Measure 13 said the measure would have been more restrictive than any other medical marijuana law in place, banning dispensaries and requiring patients to have long-term relationships with their physicians. But from the start, law enforcement officers in South Dakota argued that regulating the measure would prove nightmarish.

Maj. Brian Mueller with the Pennington County Sheriff’s Department called the measure “ambiguous and confusing” and said it would have redirected critical law enforcement resources needed elsewhere.

He wasn’t particularly surprised Tuesday night by the outcome. “I think a lot of people worked hard to get the truth … out to the public,” he said. “It’s evident that people were listening.”

Mueller said he couldn’t support any medical marijuana measure that didn’t have the support of the state medical community, which Initiated Measure 13 did not.

The South Dakota State Medical Association rejected the measure, arguing that more scientific research was needed on the drug.

Jo Prang, a Rapid City pharmacist and pharmacy owner, was “elated” that the measure failed.

“Thank goodness,” she said. “South Dakota finally wised up. I think we kind of educated ourselves about what’s happening in other states.”

If marijuana is ever going to be considered a legitimate medication, it needs to be treated the way all drugs are, Prang said. “The right way to do it is going to be through research,” she said. “Why would we just open this up to people who have no qualifications? It’s just the wrong way to go about it.”

Emmett Reistroffer, campaign director for the Coalition for Compassion, said the heavy Republican turnout obviously turned the tide on the medical marijuana issue.

“We were very surprised. I thought we had all the momentum on our side,” he said. “But it was a different election this year. Some people are calling it a Republican revolution.”

Reistroffer said opponents of the measure also used “smear” tactics and misinformation to scare voters away, suggesting that marijuana stores would be opened near day care centers. Reistroffer said under the measure, such things would never have happened.

“Voters were simply scared away,” he said.

Despite the defeat, Reistroffer isn’t giving up. He expects to bring the issue to voters again in 2012.

– Article from Rapid City Journal on November 3.