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SD Lawmakers Consider Medical Marijuana Bill

February 4, 2013, 5:56 PM by Ben Dunsmoor

SD Lawmakers Consider Medical Marijuana Bill

Should South Dakota allow people to possess small amounts of marijuana for medical use? A legislative panel will tackle that issue on Tuesday.

More than two years ago, 63 percent of South Dakotans voted against legalizing medical marijuana in the state.

The bill in Pierre isn't as expansive as the measure that failed in 2010. The legislation being considered by lawmakers would not fully legalize medical marijuana but instead, allow people to use a medical defense in court if they are arrested on marijuana charges.

Patrick Lynch of Sioux Falls supports the bill. He was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 24 years ago but didn't like the valium his doctor prescribed to treat his condition.

"I was nothing. I was a nobody. I was a bump on a log," Lynch said.

That's why Lynch turned to marijuana as medication.

"It's an issue of medicinal and fixing the tremors that I get with my multiple sclerosis," Lynch said.

He says it treats his MS while allowing him to live a normal life.

Lynch believes the legislation allowing South Dakotans to defend themselves in court by calling an expert to testify that the drug is needed for medical reasons would ease the concerns of South Dakotans who use medical marijuana.

"Then they can take their medicine without the fear of being prosecuted for it," Lynch said.

"We have a great deal of empathy for those with true medical conditions but with the modern medical world there are many other medicines out there that can be prescribed," Minnehaha County State's Attorney Aaron McGowan said.

McGowan is opposed to the legislation. He says the bill is vague and doesn't define the credentials for the medical experts who can testify in court. He also says South Dakotans who possess marijuana for medicinal use are encouraging criminal activity when they buy the drug.

"There is a criminal transaction that is taking place. So, drug dealers will profit from medical marijuana. Every time they sell medical marijuana to one of those patients, or defendants, with a medical necessity there will be a felony," McGowan said.

But Lynch spent Monday calling lawmakers and urging them to pass the bill.

"This has nothing to do with recreational. It has nothing to do with anything but medicinal purposes," Lynch said.

The South Dakota House Health and Human Services Committee will vote on the legislation Tuesday morning.

According to ProCon.org, there are currently 18 states that have approved legislation to legalize marijuana for medical use.

As of January, lawmakers in ten other states are being asked to consider legalizing medical marijuana.

South Dakota is one of three states that are considering legislation that is favorable toward medical marijuana, but would not make it legal to use.

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