Polarizing debate over legalization of marijuana continues

Published: Nov. 3, 2022 at 6:26 PM MDT|Updated: Nov. 3, 2022 at 7:00 PM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) -With elections five days away the polarizing debate over the legalization of marijuana continues.

Yes on 27 Campaign Manager Matthew Schweich and four members of the Law Enforcement and Veterans Coalition held a virtual press conference to discuss why the IM 27 is important. “They are not seeing how much of a failure our current approach is, and have had this elicit market for decades, and just want to maintain the status quo... they have failed to recognize another option here which takes cannabis out of the illicit market and shift it into regulation...” Schweich states.

Quotes from those in support of Measure 27:

  • Rosanna Renaud, Arm Veteran/ Retired Dallas Police Officer: “During my years as a police officer, I had a street-level view of drug abuse I saw meth, heroin, and cocaine that put people in the morgue but never marijuana. In my opinion, arresting people for personal possession of marijuana is a distraction for police, it’s a waste of time and resources that could be spent fighting real crime.”
  • Becky Letsche, Army Veteran: “...I asked one of my VA providers if it would be okay if I got my medical cannabis card. I wanted to treat my condition and cut down on the pills. They said that would be fine and it would not affect my VA benefits or my ability to use VA services but if I decided to get my card, I would have to modify my treatment plan. Ultimately that would mean that my VA providers could no longer prescribe any of the current medications that I receive from the VA... Giving up on my prescribed medications is not an option for me. Abruptly or completely stopping my medications would be damaging to my health.”
  • JoAnn Jorgensen, South Dakota Police officer: “... In my opinion keeping marijuana illegal doesn’t keep us any safer. It’s a distraction from much more serious problems. With six grandchildren I’m more worried about them finding fentanyl pill, laced pill, on the playground than marijuana... It doesn’t make any sense to waste valuable time on marijuana arrests when valuable time needs to be spent on fentanyl-coated pills that kill more people...”
  • Bill Stocker, Retired United States Marine/ Retired Sioux Falls Police Officer: " I’ve maintained close ties with police here in Sioux Falls, and they’re telling me the same thing that we’re telling you. That marijuana arrests are a waste of time and resources, and that we could be doing other things. Second, our opponents are using a few recent drug dealing instances as an argument against 27, but that does not make much sense because maintaining the current criminalization of cannabis is what will keep the dealers in business. The status quo is not working.”

From the other side of the debate, Jim Kinyon with Protecting South Dakota Kids gave his opinion on IM 27 “Tell you that they would like to pretend that they are going to regulate marijuana and make it safe, and I would just point to the fact that in all the states that have endorsed recreational marijuana violent crime escalates and the cartels follow legalization and they do so primarily because you create a lot broader market.”

Quotes from those against Measure 27:

  • Brian Mueller, Pennington County Sheriff-elect: “I look out my office window at our Care Campus and Jail, facilities filled with people battling addictions. I ask the community to think about protecting our lifestyle and our children, before introducing additional intoxicants.”
  • Pat West, Meade County Sheriff-elect, Law Enforcement Liaison for Protecting SD Kids: “The costs are just too great. Legalizing marijuana does not remove the black market or access to children. Cartels are stronger than ever in Colorado and we would expect nothing less in South Dakota.”
  • Steve Allender, Rapid City Mayor: “We should be open minded enough to learn the lessons from other states who have legalized marijuana. Legalization will compromise our public safety and public health efforts in communities across South Dakota.”
  • Don Hedrick, Rapid City Police Chief: “Government officials, non-profit organizations, law enforcement, and other community stakeholders are working around the clock to find ways to address mental health issues, impaired drivers, and violent crime fueled by substance abuse. Today’s THC products are, by design, more potent than ever. Legalizing another intoxicant will only add to the strain on our mental healthcare, public safety, and criminal justice systems. It will not make our children healthier, adult-users more productive, or our society more accountable.”

64 Sheriffs and at least three Sheriff-elects out of 66 counties stand opposed to marijuana. The South Dakota Police Chiefs Association opposes marijuana. Local public safety officials urge a NO vote on recreational marijuana, asking the public to carefully consider the negative consequences and societal costs of legalization.