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Voters May Again Decide On Medical Marijuana

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South Dakota voters may have another chance to approve or turn down medical marijuana.
Proponents of a ballot initiative to legalize marijuana for medical use turned in roughly 16-thousand signatures to the Secretary of State’s office.  About 13-thousand are needed to put the issue before voters.  State officials are now working to verify the petitions.

South Dakota voters have twice rejected the idea of medical marijuana.  But proponents of this ballot measure say this time it’s different.  Melissa Mentele is the director of New Approach South Dakota.  She says the proposed system sets up a registry for patients and opens the door for both homegrown and commercial pot growers.
“Basically puts in place a whole new industry for the state of South Dakota. It’s all run and regulated by the state there is great guidelines regarding it.  So, we put lots of safeguards in there. And we, safeguarded not only patients but also landlords, and employers and the police.  You know we just wanted a really safe effective program that worked well for patients,” says Mentele.  
Proponents point to successes in other states, like Colorado where legalization of recreational marijuana has poured millions of dollars into state coffers boosting education and reducing the prison population.   But some dispute those successes.  Opponents point out that enforcement of federal drug laws are subject to the whims of whatever presidential administration takes office next.  Jo Prang is a pharmacist based in Pierre who is a critic of legalized marijuana.  
“I just hate to see South Dakota go down that road.  I prefer we be the last state.   We’re hardly ever the first state. So you know, in my opinion let’s wait to be last and see where this goes nationally first,” says Prang.
Prang says if medical marijuana is legalized on a federal level it should still be regulated like any other pharmaceutical drug.  The Secretary of State’s office is now working to verify medical marijuana petitions.  Given a large volume of ballot initiatives and constitutional amendments this year officials say it could take a few months before all are processed.