I hope everyone enjoyed the long Memorial Day weekend and that you had a moment or two at least to reflect on the ultimate sacrifice our brave warriors gave for this great country.
As Mark Levin would say, “Let’s talk marijuana, shall we?”
I volunteered to be on the two big summer studies with the legislature, those being marijuana and work force housing. I was selected for both, but not upset as they are very important for this state going forward. The only other summer study I’ve been on (in the past) was hemp. That was two summers ago and I was able to follow that subject through to fruition, legalizing the growing and cultivation of hemp, in Legislative Session 2020.
I attended the Marijuana Interim Study Committee’s first session. (Work Force Housing has its first session on June 9th.) This first marijuana session was conducted at our capitol and had the full committee meeting together. I say that as we have divided the marijuana issue into two subgroups. One is medicinal marijuana and the other is recreational marijuana. We are calling it “recreational, adult use.” I’m on the adult use subcommittee.
How did we get to this point in South Dakota? It started off with the November 3, 2020 election. On that ballot were Constitutional Amendment A and Initiated Measure 26 (IM-26). Amendment A, as you remember, had three subjects: hemp, which had already passed and was put into law in 2020; recreational marijuana; and medicinal marijuana. On the same ballot was IM-26 which, again, was to legalize medicinal marijuana.
There was no mention that medicinal marijuana was already legal in a drug called Marinol. To obtain Marinol, you must have a South Dakota-licensed physician prescribe it, then a South Dakota-licensed pharmacist fill the prescription. This is a synthetic marijuana, so no income was gained by our growers. That was hidden pretty deeply in my opinion.
So, if you voted in the 2020 General Election, you could have voted for medical marijuana both in Constitutional Amendment A and again in IM-26.
How in the heck can it be on the ballot twice?
When I inquired about this even before the election, the Secretary of State pointed to the Attorney General who pointed to the Secretary of State.
Where the heck is the quality control on ballot measures?
We did pass legislation this past session (2021) to tighten up this issue. I know “the horse already left the barn.” Now, here we are holding the bag so to speak. The bag, not the “baggie.”
What I don’t like about ballot measures is that they take a lot of the quality control out of the process by eliminating the legislative process.
Let me explain.
If medicinal marijuana had been brought through the legislative process via any one of the 105 legislators (35 Senators and 70 House Representatives), it would have been drafted (written) by our lawyers in the Legislative Research Council, sent out for confirmation and tweaking, then put into an official bill. After that the legislator who is the Prime Sponsor would send it out to the other 104 legislators for co-sponsorship.
Then it would go before a committee hearing, in this case, probably State Affairs.At the committee hearing, there would be proponent and opponent testimony and, if passed, it would then go to the floor for a vote by all the members of the prime sponsor’s body (Senate or House). If it passed that chamber, it would go over to the other chamber where it would be assigned to a committee, probably State Affairs again. There is would have proponent and opponent testimony again and if passed, be voted for or against on the floor of that chamber. If it received a majority vote, it would then go on to our Governor. He or she would sign it into law or veto it, sending it back to both chambers for a two-thirds veto override. If it received the vote, then in this case it (medicinal marijuana) would become law in South Dakota.
I know I’m wearing you out. Me too! All of that process versus an Initiated Measure (such as IM-26), drawn up by a Special Interest Group, a lot of the time from out of state. Once the required number of signatures have been obtained, it appears on the ballot. Side note: Signature-getters are also paid and yes, most of that money comes from out of state special interest groups.
Before the election, the advertisement campaign begins. This is off my memory, so I might be off a bit, but proponents for IM-26 spent about $1.5 million and opponents (most of us grassroots South Dakotans) spent about $100 thousand to defeat IM-26. About a 15 to 1 ratio.
Also noteworthy, they made the ballot measure into tiny print for IM-26. It had 95 sections to it. To read this on the ballot, you’d have to drink a 5-hour energy drink, bring a box lunch, and have 20/15 vision. I’m being sarcastic but you get the point.
So, how did we get to this point? Amendment A passed by 54% in favor and is now waiting on the South Dakota Supreme Court to decide if it is constitutional, due to it having three subjects (Hemp, recreational, and medical marijuana). Initiated Measure 26 passed with 70% approval and goes into effect July 1, 2021 with a 120-day window to get dispensaries set up by the finalized rules. That’s the mission of the Marijuana Interim Study Committee. Now you can see why I volunteered.
We have to get this right!
Tim R. Goodwin is a District 30 Representative.