It certainly looks like the South Dakota Highway Patrol is interfering with the state’s medical marijuana ballot initiative, which is in a tight race ahead of November 2.
The campaign for Measure 13, South Dakota’s medical marijuana initiative, called out the state Highway Patrol for a big media push last week around two separate marijuana busts from August that the Patrol tied to out-of-state medical marijuana patients.
The South Dakota Coalition for Compassion is crying foul about a news release from the South Dakota Department of Public Safety regarding medical marijuana seized in traffic stops.
The coalition thinks the department released information about a 100-pound pot bust in Pennington County in August only to smear their campaign for the passage of Initiated Measure 13 on Election Day. The measure would legalize medical marijuana in the state. The release was issued Thursday.
“The announcement by the (Highway Patrol) was self-evidently a political maneuver by bureaucrats who have a stake in stopping Measure 13,” said Tony Ryan, a retired police officer who works for the coalition.
Yeah, certainly looks like that. There’s no other reason to sit on two-month-old news and drop it two weeks before an election. While state agencies can’t openly engage in politics, the Patrol is in the clear because it didn’t specifically mention the initiative.
State agencies are not permitted to campaign for or against ballot questions, Secretary of State Chris Nelson said, but the Highway Patrol release is legal because it doesn’t mention Measure 13.
Emmett Reistroffer, head of the Coalition for Compassion, said the release is another example of law enforcement misrepresenting Measure 13. He said the measure contains safeguards against the problems other states have had with medical marijuana. Law enforcement is worried about losing the ability to seize assets in drug cases, and pharmacies are concerned about losing customers, he said.
Measure 13 is in a tough race. The polls show it’s neck-and-neck for medical marijuana in South Dakota. When medical marijuana was last up for a vote in the state in 2006, it lost by just 15,000 votes, for 4%.
Just so we’re clear: here’s who Measure 13 is designed to help. Valerie Hannah is a Gulf War veteran who is permanently disabled after coming in contact with nerve agents from chemical weapons. After returning from the Gulf, she was diagnosed with both chronic nerve pain and cervical cancer.
Valerie uses medical marijuana to ease her pain because it’s the only medicine that can restore some normalcy to her life.
The combination of the nerve damage and the effects of the cancer and cancer treatment left her in pain, and she hated the effects of the opiates prescribed to her.
“You can’t function,” she said. “It’s like being drunk.”
So she decided to try medical marijuana. “I didn’t have anything to lose,” she said.
When the marijuana gave her “immediate” relief from the pain and muscle tingling, without the drunken sensation, Hannah began using it regularly.
In 2007, she was able to stop taking about “90 percent” of the medication prescribed by the VA. Today, she relies mostly on the medical marijuana, taking it through a vaporization machine.
While Hannah is “proud” of the VA for recognizing the potential benefits of medical marijuana, she remains frustrated by the overall attitudes about the drug.
“The doctor at the VA knows. She works with me, but I’m still put in the system as a substance abuser,” she said.
And that’s something she is not, Hannah said. “Why does Pfizer have to be the only pain-relief providers,” she said.
A war veteran permanently disabled because of her service to our country is branded as a “substance abuser” because she uses the one medicine that actually helps her get through each day.
Now, the South Dakota Highway Patrol is trying to sabotage the ballot initiative that would allow Hannah to get out of the black market and stop being branded as an illicit abuser.
This is not right. South Dakota needs Measure 13 to pass, and we need your help in these last 13 days. Please make a contribution to Measure 13′s campaign and help legalize medical marijuana in South Dakota.