South Dakota's law enforcement industry gears up to defeat cannabis reform

Pastures in Brookings and Moody Counties and the ditches along the I-29 of my youth were adorned with feral cannabis from Sioux Falls to Omaha, descendants of an agribusiness destroyed by a racist and xenophobic law enforcement industry now dealing with bulging prisons.

Frustrated with the inability of activists and advocates to herd the booze-soaked, ecocidal South Dakota Legislature and the Republican Party apparatchiks in Pierre into the corral of cannabis common sense an interested party reached out to Matt Kinney, a Spearditch-based attorney who specializes in the defense of clients caught up in the morass of cannabis law in my home state. Kinney, a member of the legal committee for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), told ip during a phone interview that the bills based on the kurtz template seeking the reversal of South Dakota's draconian statutes would be voluminous, would require changing the red moocher state's constitution and are beyond his expertise to draft. He represented former Butte County State's Attorney Heather Plunkett after she was railroaded into dismissal by then-Attorney General Marty Jackley.

Even the Republican-heavy South Dakota State Medical Association admits that although "marijuana and dronabinol decreased pain" the pharmaceutical industry produces opioids that are legal albeit highly addictive, easily abused and often deadly. South Dakota is among the worst states for opioid abuse.

The State of South Dakota has no jurisdiction in tribal nations and a 1986 amendment to federal law allows tribes to acquire off-reservation land to serve the needs of its people so in 2018 the Oglala Lakota Oyate bought property on I-90 just outside Badlands National Park. As co-owners of Pe'Sla the Minnesota-based Shakopee Mdewakanton Nation could bring that state's medical cannabis and reproductive rights freedoms to the Black Hills. Lower Brule has struggled with synthetic cannabinoids but that community has off-reservation property in Fort Pierre to test their sovereignty. The Isanti Dakota Oyate or Flandreau Santee Sioux Nation has also taken steps to resume their cannabis initiative. A former chairman of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate is a tribal liaison for a cannabis development firm and South Dakota Secretary of Tribal Relations Dave Flute is also a former chairman of the SWO.

Earlier this year the group South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws submitted to a Republican secretary of state over 50,000 signatures in support of a ballot measure that if passed would allow adults 21 and older to possess and distribute up to one ounce and cultivate up to three plants for personal use. If passed, the measure would also direct South Dakota's extremist legislature to establish therapeutic and industrial cannabis (hemp) programs.

Legalization, inspections and regulation of a product that so many people enjoy is reasonable public policy that align with our life safety goals. Republicans in Minnesota's legislature have blocked legal cannabis for all adults denying that state needed revenue and leaving a thriving black market in place to enrich the law enforcement industry so Minnesota-based Vireo Health expanded into New Mexico's therapeutic cannabis market.

But today, South Dakota's law enforcement industry is worried cannabis reform will lead to less revenue for police departments. Policing for Profit has allowed the Division of Criminal Investigation to provide military armaments for the industry throughout South Dakota. Prostitution will be legal before cannabis laws are reformed.
Captain Tony Harrison is with the Pennington County Sheriff’s office. “I’m talking doctors, other kinds of folks who recognize the dangers and pitfalls of medical marijuana—legal marijuana in any form,” Harrison says. "That’s what we’re going to work on so we can educate the public on those issues.” The South Dakota Chamber of Commerce is also organizing against the constitutional amendment. David Owen is the president of the chamber. Owen says language legalizing marijuana doesn’t belong in the constitution. [Bill Janklow's idea of public radio]

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