The South Dakota Family Coalition for Compassion failed to find a legislative champion for its proposal to legalize medical cannabis. Melissa Mentele of SDFCC says her group is fine tuning the bill they drafted to circulate as an initiated measure.
To make things interesting, SDFCC is also working up an initiated measure to decriminalize the possession of marijuana. Under a draft currently under consideration, pot smokers would still face a civil penalty of $100 for possession of an ounce or less, but the initiated measure would repeal all other state and local penalties for ounce-or-less possession. The measure would also prohibit penalties for testing positive for marijuana.
I wonder: will promoting these two cannabis initiatives at the same time help or hurt the prospects for passing one or both of them? Medical marijuana advocates have been working the media to promote their cause with adorable yet suffering children. But some of the advocates of medical marijuana want nothing to do with recreational marijuana. Supporters of recreational marijuana may not get excited about circulating petitions for a compromise measure that still subjects them to a $100 fine; they may prefer a complete repeal of what some advocates call prohibition.
As for voters, perhaps putting medical and recreational marijuana on the same ballot will boost the medical measure by giving voters an opportunity to split their vote and pat themselves on the back for taking a middle road. Then again, a general decriminalization bill will provoke all the more vigorous opposition from law enforcement and anti-drug purists, and the volume of that opposition will likely spill over to deter some voters from casting a yes vote for any measure mentioning cannabis.
Cannabis backers can do that electoral calculus later. Right now, they need to get their drafts to the Legislative Research Council, then submit their final drafts to the Attorney General, then submit their materials to the Secretary of State. Then they can circulate their petitions and seek and submit 13,871 signatures by November 8 this year... and remember: Senator Corey Brown will call you stupid and challenge your petitions in court. He will lose, but you circulators will want to have a lawyer in the chute.