Feds, Measure 4 Proponents at Odds Over Pot

Feds, Measure 4 Proponents at Odds Over Pot
Posted by CN Staff on October 19, 2006 at 22:31:14 PT
By Ryan Woodard, Journal Staff Writer
Source: Rapid City Journal
South Dakota -- A White house drug official, the state attorney general and local law officials panned a proposed measure to legalize medical marijuana at a news conference Thursday at the Rapid City Police Department.“This is about asking yourself whether making more drugs available in the state of South Dakota to young people is a good thing,” deputy drug czar Scott Burns said of Initiated Measure 4, which, if passed on Nov. 7, would legalize marijuana for medicinal use.
That would include those with debilitating illness such as cancer and glaucoma.Burns was joined at the news conference by Pennington County State’s Attorney Glenn Brenner, South Dakota Attorney General Larry Long, Pennington County deputy sheriff Dave Bramblee and State Rep. Don Van Etten, who all spoke out against the measure, saying it would cause medical and legal problems.Burns, who flew in from the White House where he works as National Drug Policy deputy director, called the measure a “con” to make the drug legal and that, if passed, it would “normalize this endeavor of smoking marijuana” and lead to more access to the drug for young people.Long denounced the measure, too, saying that the way it is written goes beyond merely helping those who need it.“If Initiated Measure No. 4 was narrowly tapered to provide relief simply to those people who have serious and terminal medical conditions, I probably wouldn’t be here today,” he said.He said the law, which would make it legal for people with “debilitating medical conditions,” to use marijuana, would be subject to abuse because chronic pain is included under that distinction and that the term could be interpreted too broadly.Valerie Hannah, a Deerfield native who has used marijuana to ease ailments stemming from her exposure to sarin gas in the Gulf War, disagreed.“If a physician is upright, and the person is upright, I don’t see it being abused that way,” she said. “Everything can be abused in one sense or another. (Long should) stop politicking and using scare tactics.”Hannah has a degenerative illness similar to multiple sclerosis. Her illness causes her deep inner-muscle pain, which marijuana has helped alleviate, she said.“Other drugs put you in more of a stupor,” she added. “(And) there’s never been a case of anyone overdosing (on) marijuana.”Long also said the measure also includes language that would provide a “get out of jail free card” to medical marijuana users and their caregivers, who would be allowed to posses the drug if the measure to passes.Section 11 of Initiated Measure 4 reads, “no qualifying patient or caregiver who possesses a registry identification card issued pursuant to this Act may be arrested, prosecuted, or penalized in any manner, or be denied any right or privilege.”Long said that means either the patient or caregiver of the patient would be immune from any type of arrest if they possess the card, which would be approved by the health department.One of the sponsors of the initiative, Hermosa resident Bob Newland, said a few words were left out of the bill, leaving it to the broad interpretation Long suggested.“That read broadly would suggest a patient can commit any crime he wants with impunity,” Newland said. “The word ‘for any act committed pursuant to this act’ should have been put at the end of that sentence.”He said the courts could fix the problem.“The courts are allowed to interpret a law based on the intent of the drafter, or in this case of the people who voted for it,” he said. “Obviously, we did not intend to allow somebody with a marijuana department of health registry card to be able to sell marijuana or to be able to commit any other crime.”Burns said that legalizing marijuana would vastly increase the amount of marijuana smokers, increasing it to “at least” the current numbers of cigarette smokers in the U.S., about 60 million. He estimated the current number at 15 million.But Newland maintained that the bill is merely a measure to help those who are sick.“It’s for anyone who needs medical marijuana who isn’t already buying it off the street,” he said.He said Long should quit “nitpicking.”“Attorney General Long should be working with doctors and patients to assure that sick, disabled, and dying people have safe access to the medicines they need.”Source: Rapid City Journal (SD)Author: Ryan Woodard, Journal Staff WriterPublished: October 19, 2006Copyright: 2006 The Rapid City JournalContact: letters rapidcityjournal.comWebsite: Articles: Medical Marijuana Measure Should Pass Med Marijuana Bill Needed Dakota Medi-Pot Supporters Push Forward 
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on November 01, 2006 at 07:49:48 PT
Related Article from The Rapid City Journal
Bill Pits Attorney General Against Medical-Marijuana Proponents***By Ryan Woodard, Journal Staff WriterNovember 1, 2006South Dakota -- Voters will decide next week whether South Dakota citizens should legally be allowed to use medical marijuana to treat symptoms caused by certain medical conditions.The controversial Initiated Measure 4 would allow people with “debilitating” medical conditions to grow, possess and use small amounts of medical marijuana.Proponents say the bill would enable those who have painful conditions to legally ease their pain.“I think it’s very important for all the sick people who want to have choices in the way they treat their medical conditions,” said Valerie Hannah, a Deerfield resident who has used marijuana to ease pain resulting from her exposure to sarin gas during the Gulf War.Rapid City resident Cynthia Siragusa, a multiple-sclerosis sufferer, agreed.“I’m a decent person, and I don’t want to be a criminal because I use this to alleviate my pain,” she said.But opponents of the bill say that it is too broad and would increase the overall use of marijuana.“My problem with this bill is, this isn’t about just getting marijuana to people who have a serious medical condition,” Attorney General Larry Long said. “This is about getting marijuana to a lot of other people, too.”“This bill is big enough you can drive a truck through it,” he said.A primary argument Long has with the bill is section 11, which he has called a “get-out-of-jail-free card.”The wording in that section states “no qualifying patient or caregiver who possesses a registry identification card issued pursuant to this act may be arrested, prosecuted or penalized in any manner, or be denied any right or privilege.”The wording, which is designed to protect those who medically use marijuana and those who care for them, allows the holder of the card immunity for any crime, Long said.Hannah said wording problems with the bill could be fixed after it passes.“Anything that we have in the disagreement with Mr. Long can be settled by proper channels in the Legislature,” she said.She said Long could help South Dakotans for Medical Marijuana instead of badmouthing the bill.“If he would only sit down with our organization and talk about this wording with us … but he hasn’t done that,” she said. “But he’s been very successful in using the wording to scare South Dakotans into thinking his way.”One of the sponsors of the bill, Hermosa resident Bob Newland, said wording was inadvertently left out.“The word ‘for any act committed pursuant to this act’ should have been put at the end of that sentence,” Newland said.Long said he is not interested in fixing the bill in the legislature, especially since the fix couldn’t be done until next summer, when the session closes.“What are we going to do between November and July?” he asked.He doesn’t believe that a mistake was made in drafting the bill.“I’m not willing to give them the benefit of saying that they over drafted it by accident,” Long said. “I think it was carefully drafted by someone who knew exactly what they were doing to make it look like this was a tightly controlled, regulated system that would allow people with serious medical conditions to use marijuana.”Other points of controversy in the bill have included the severity of illnesses covered under the bill.“You’re supposed to have a debilitating medical condition,” Long said. “They list a lot of serious ones. But it says any condition that causes chronic pain.”Long said chronic pain is too broad.“How many people are going to take advantage of that?” he asked.Hannah said stipulations in the bill prevent it from being taken advantage of.“First off, you’ve got to understand the definition of chronic pain,” she said. “You’ve got to be debilitated for over two years and have to have an underlying cause that’s not really curable.”“So, if a doctor’s being true to himself, he’s not going to write the person with a sprained ankle or a backache a recommendation for this or a certificate for this,” she said.Siragusa says that M.S. causes her pain on a daily basis — pain that prescription drugs don’t help.“As far as the symptoms, there really isn’t as much for medicines,” she said.She said marijuana loosens her up when she wakes up in the morning.“When I wake up, I’m so stiff, I’m almost paralyzed,” she said.Medical marijuana bills have been passed in 11 other states, Hannah said.Long said he has been told Initiated Measure 4 was crafted after those bills, which he has not read and compared with the South Dakota measure.Initiated Measure 4 would permit the patient and caregiver alike to possess not more than six marijuana plants and 1 ounce of “usable” marijuana.Contact Ryan Woodard at 394-8412 or ryan.woodard rapidcityjournal.comCopyright: 2006 The Rapid City Journal
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on October 20, 2006 at 16:16:47 PT
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