South Dakota Family Coalition for Compassion has released its draft legislation to legalize medical marijuana in South Dakota. SDFCC's Melissa Mentele tells me her group is still seeking a legislative sponsor to throw this bill's 26 pages and 23 sections in the hopper.
The bill requires some reading; SDFCC could reduce that reading by cutting the Findings section, which takes up nearly a full page with text that has no legal effect. Findings are better saved for committee testimony and marketing. Use them for persuasion, not to clutter up the law books.
The bill allows any registered patient or caregiver to carry up to 2.0 ounces of cannabis. Registered cultivators may possess three cannabis plants kept in an enclosed, locked facility.
Not knowing the ins and outs of the cannabis industry, I perhaps do not fully grasp the need for the complexity of this bill. This bill strikes me as a rather complex solution—creating a new state registry and rules for one medicinal product—compared to the seemingly more straightforward policy of declaring it legal for physicians to prescribe cannabis and cannabis-based drugs (boom! one sentence, right?). But letting doctors write prescriptions doesn't solve anything if patients can't get those prescriptions filled. This medical-marijuana bill thus has to legalize a system of production. As a promoter of small business and independent agriculture, I can appreciate this proposal's effort to open the door for small producers to provide useful medical products and compete with Big Pharma.
But I wonder: will our legislators feel any need to take up complicated medical marijuana legislation if the tribes take advantage of the Justice Department's new reservation-pot policy and make the reservations safe havens for marijuana cultivation and use? Perhaps legislators will say, "Don't bother us; go see the 'medicine man' in Flandreau."
The 2015 Session of the South Dakota Legislature begins today. Governor Dennis Daugaard will blow some smoke in his State of the State Address at 1 p.m. Central; then we'll see if any legislators take up the call to let folks with cancer, glaucoma, and other ailments enjoy some soothing leafy smoke.