Pennington County Sheriff and state senator oppose marijuana bills

Published: Jan. 8, 2020 at 6:52 PM CST
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South Dakota Secretary of State Steve Barnett announced Initiated Measure 26, Medical Marijuana Initiative will be up for a vote in November.

If passed, the measure would require lawmakers to pass laws regarding hemp and medical marijuana.

This is in addition to Constitutional Amendment A, Marijuana Legalization Initiative which would allow recreational marijuana use and hemp sale in South Dakota.

Both Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom and State Senator Helene Duhamel oppose the measures.

The Sheriff says passing either would open "Pandora's box" for more drug use and would complicate law enforcement efforts.

"If you look at the Initiative Measure 26, it references 95 sections to it, which in essence, makes it murky and difficult to enforce, and that's by design," said Thom.

Thom estimates that 95% of the people in the system have a drug or alcohol problem and he and Duhamel think legalizing more drugs would only increase their problems.

"We have a huge drug problem in Pennington County and I look at marijuana as a gateway drug for many people," said Duhamel. "We are fighting methamphetamine on all fronts and I just can't imagine throwing more into the mix."

Thom explains there is a significant difference between a constitutional amendment and an initiated measure. A recent example is Marcy's law for victims' rights.

"There's a distinction here, one is Initiated Measure 26, but the other one is actually a constitutional amendment, so what we're saying is that we're going to amend our South Dakota constitution," said Thom. "And to amend the constitution, it has to go to a vote of the people. So to change a state law, that goes through the legislative process, to amend the constitution, once you have it, you're stuck with it."

Duhamel says it will be interesting to see how the voters of South Dakota will decide.