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August 29, 2014 06:00 PM

Few Attend Medical Marijuana Protest At State Fair

Huron, SD

A protest promoting the legalization of medical marijuana Friday didn't turn out the numbers organizers were expecting.

The Huron man who organized the event said he expected at least 150 protesters. About a dozen people marched from the South Dakota State Fair to a high-traffic intersection in town.

"We're really pushing for awareness about what medical marijuana is, what it can do," Ryan Gaddy with South Dakotans Against Prohibition said.

Gaddy argues it provides people with medicine they need.

That pro-medical marijuana pitch will be a tough sell to some. More than 60 percent of South Dakota voters said ‘no’ to legalizing it in 2010. Clifford Roth of Huron watched protesters assemble Friday and says he wouldn't support their cause now either.

"It's against the law and it think we should keep it that way. We have enough problems with booze and all the other stuff. We don't need that kind of thing," Roth said.

To keep everyone safe as people walked down the street, Huron police officers led and followed protesters.

"Even though we don’t necessarily agree with the cause, what we do respect is that they went through all the proper channels, obtained the proper permits from both the city commission and the department of transportation," officer Brandon Neitzert said.

Before the march started, they let people attending the gubernatorial debate at the South Dakota State Fair know their stance on the issue. That's where Sanborn County Sheriff Tom Fridley saw protestors holding signs. He calls legalized medical marijuana an issue of public safety, saying it puts another intoxicant out on the roads.

"If it wasn't abused maybe, but I still don't think it can work," Fridley said.

Protester Cody Gardner disagrees, saying people need more information about medical marijuana. Rather than safety, he argues it’s is an issue of freedom.

"We're all about equal rights, medical rights," Gardner said. "Every patient should be able to have the option of receiving medical marijuana."

The protesters said they didn't want any illegal activity to take place and wanted to remain peaceful. Police in Huron hadn’t received any complaints as of Friday afternoon, Neitzert said.

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