Sensible marijuana policies debated
Lawmakers in Pierre considered two proposals to reform marijuana polices in the Mount Rushmore State this session. Unfortunately, neither advanced past committee.
HB 1227, introduced by Rep. Dan Kaiser and Sen. Craig Tieszen, sought to create a medical defense to the charge of marijuana possession or use if the defendant could prove at trial that he or she needed to use marijuana for medical purposes. This bill wouldn’t have prevented cops from arresting or prosecutors from charging medical marijuana patients for possession or use; it simply would have given the sick and suffering in South Dakota the chance to present evidence of medical use at trial. Unfortunately, deferral of this bill means that evidence of necessary medical use will continue to go undiscovered in courtrooms across the state.
In addition to the medical defense, SB 221, introduced by Sen. Jim Bradford and Rep. Betty Olson, would have reduced the penalty for possession of marijuana from a Class 1 to a Class 2 misdemeanor. The proposed change would have relieved law enforcement from the burden of having to arrest individuals in possession of small amounts of marijuana and would have given officers discretion in regard to arrests, allowing them to use their time as they best see fit. In addition, the bill would have scaled back the maximum penalties and jail time associated with a charge of marijuana possession.
Many thanks are in order to Emmett Reistroffer and Families First for their advocacy and leadership on these issues.
Can medical marijuana help you?
In order to pass medical marijuana legislation, we need to hear from patients who could benefit (or are already benefiting) from medical marijuana. If you are a patient who might benefit from medical marijuana, or if you know somebody who might benefit from medical marijuana, please contact MPP at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how you can help. Please include your nine-digit zip code or your address, so we can figure out who your state legislators are.
Additionally, if you are a medical professional, law enforcement officer, or a member of the clergy, your help could be particularly valuable. If you would like to volunteer to help with this effort, please email email@example.com.
Learn about South Dakota's marijuana laws
In 2007, there were 1,456 arrests for marijuana possession in South Dakota and 130 arrests for marijuana sales. These marijuana arrests accounted for 73 percent of all drug arrests in South Dakota that year. Possession of just a small amount of marijuana in the state carries a potential penalty of a year in jail and a $1,000 fine! You can learn more about South Dakota's marijuana penalties and enforcement by reading this report by Jon Gettman, Ph.D. You can send a letter to your legislators asking them to reduce the penalty for possession of marijuana to a civil fine or asking them to end marijuana prohibition entirely.
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