South Dakota Safe Access Act

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director August 16, 2010

    [Note: Bob Newland will be our guest on NORML SHOW LIVE this Thursday 8/19 – live.norml.org at 4pm ET / 1pm PT.]

    Twelve months ago, long time South Dakota NORML activist Bob Newland was legally barred by a state judge from engaging in any public advocacy for cannabis law reform while on probation for a marijuana possession offense. Newland’s First Amendment stripping sentence was all the more egregious given Bob’s high profile role in this November’s statewide ballot initiative campaign (‘Yes on 13’) to legalize the medical use of marijuana for qualified patients.

    After months of coerced silence, Bob has finally been unshackled and may once again enjoy his Constitutional right to advocate for rational and compassionate marijuana policies. And he isn’t wasting any time. His op/ed below, published last week in The Rapid City Journal, provides details on Bob’s court-ordered exile, and offers insight as to why he continues to articulately and passionately advocate for cannabis liberation. Bob’s comparison to Galileo, the renowned astronomer who spent decades under house arrest for daring to acknowledge publicly that the Earth revolved around the sun, is disturbingly appropriate.

    Marijuana prohibition aids few
    via The Rapid City Journal

    My tongue was bound. My typing fingers were paralyzed. On July 6, 2009, these acts were performed by a circuit court judge because I am a visible and ardent advocate of informed personal discretion regarding one’s choice of intoxicant or medical palliative.

    … Contrary to the beliefs of many, there is plenty of precedent for court-ordered suppression of the truth. Often recalled is the 40-year house arrest imposed on Galileo for pointing out that the Earth revolved around the sun. Millions were burned to death for less.

    I’m 62 years old. For 44 years I have observed the incalculably stupid custom of arresting people for possession of a demonstrably beneficial, easily cultivated herb. During the past 20 years alone, over 16 million people have been arrested on marijuana charges in this country, over 12 million of them for simple possession only.

    My statistics are understated, purposefully, because most people apparently can’t face how destructive cannabis prohibition has been. It’s been estimated that each arrest has cost the taxpayers of its jurisdiction a minimum of $500. If that were the extent of the damage, prohibition would be a bargain.

    It has become common practice for law enforcement to seize peoples’ cash, possessions and children, often based on only an accusation of cannabis use. Those convicted bear an undeserved social and income-reducing stigma for the rest of their lives. No one in government or the financial industry is immune to the lure of the inconceivable amount of cash generated by the prohibited substance trade in general, of which cannabis is the most prevalent. Children find it easier to obtain “prohibited” substances than they do tobacco and alcohol, because the nature of prohibition is to subsidize an unregulated and untaxed market.

    As for every politician who endorses prohibition, every judge who sentences someone for possession, every cop who arrests someone for possession; they all are awash in the blood of the 23,000 Mexicans who have been killed in the civil war over drug turf in Mexico during the past three years, and in the less visible detritus of the lives they have shattered senselessly.

    … In a twisted and particularly cruel way of parsing the matter, which above all else is the hallmark of prohibition logic, it makes sense for government to stifle the truth.

    You can read Bob’s entire commentary here.

    And if you reside in South Dakota, you can join with Bob and The South Dakota Coalition for Compassion by voting ‘yes’ this November on Prop. 13 — The South Dakota Safe Access Act.

    Bob has done — and continues to do — his part for marijuana law reform. Have you done yours?

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director March 25, 2010

    This coming November’s mid-term election is going to have major implications for cannabis law reform.

    In South Dakota, election officials last week certified Measure 13, the South Dakota Safe Access Act, for the November ballot.

    If approved by voters, Measure 13 would exempt state criminal penalties for the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana or six plants by authorized patients — making South Dakota the fifteenth state to legalize medicinal cannabis use. Proponents of the measure, the grassroots South Dakota Coalition for Compassion, collected over twice the number of signatures necessary to place the proposal on the 2010 ballot — a feat that they believe is indicative of medical marijuana’s growing support in the Great Plains. In 2006, voters narrowly rejected a similar proposal – marking the only time that citizens have rejected a statewide medical marijuana legalization proposal.

    The stakes are arguably even higher in California, where election officials last night confirmed that the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010 will appear on the November ballot.

    If approved, the measure will allow adults 21 years or older to possess, share or transport up to one ounce of cannabis for personal consumption, and/or cultivate the plant in an area of not more than twenty-five square feet per private residence. It will also permit local governments the option to authorize the retail sale of marijuana and/or commercial cultivation of cannabis to adults and to impose taxes on such sales. Personal marijuana cultivation or not-for-profit sales of marijuana would not be taxed under the measure.

    The measure will not alter or amend any aspect of the California Health and Safety code pertaining to the use of marijuana for medical purposes, when such use is authorized by a physician.

    You can read more about this proposal here.

    According to an April 2009 California Field Poll, 56 percent of state voters back legalizing and regulating the adult use and sale of cannabis.

    Other states are in play as well. Ballot drives in Washington and Oregon are ongoing, and numerous municipal measures are also pending. Meanwhile, in the nation’s Capitol, DC council members are discussing allowing authorized patients to grow their own marijuana legally — despite the federal ban.

    No matter how you look at it, this November is shaping up to be the most important month for marijuana law reform ever.

    Let the battles begin.