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Law Officers Debate Medical Marijuana

October 28, 2010, 10:21 PM by Ben Dunsmoor

Law Officers Debate Medical Marijuana
SIOUX FALLS, SD - It nearly passed four years ago in South Dakota, but this year, the attempt to legalize medical marijuana looks to be going up in smoke. 

According to our KELO-TV/Argus Leader poll only 32% are in favor of Initiated Measure 13 while 62% are not. Supporters say it would help ease the pain for thousands of chronically ill patients, while opponents say, among other things, it would be a nightmare to enforce.

There's lots of opinions when it comes to the issue of medical marijuana. Even some members of law enforcement find themselves on both sides of the fence. Thursday night a former officer from Denver, and a South Dakota law enforcement officer laid out the pros and cons of the law.

Tony Ryan, a former law enforcement officer from Denver, where medical marijuana is legal, tried to calm some of the fears about the issue. 

"There are a lot of what-if's going around. Well, if they have this, and they have this excess marijuana what are they going to do with it? Well if they do anything but use it for a patient they're outside the law. They lose their right to be a patient or a caregiver. And, they're subject to arrest like anyone else," Ryan said.

Ryan says doctors are the ones who should decide what a patient needs for their illness. Ryan says there is a medicinal form of almost every other drug, so he doesn't know why marijuana is any different.

"Marijuana is the only substance, on the controlled substance act, that is completely illegal and not allowed to be used as a medicine," Ryan said.

But Trevor Jones, who currently works in law enforcement in South Dakota, says the laws can be abused. He used Montana, which allows medicinal marijuana, as an example.

"You go to Montana and in one county alone, one county in Montana there are 700 caregivers. Now if it weren't profitable there wouldn't be 700 caregivers in one county," Jones said.

And Jones says the way the proposed South Dakota law is written is an insult to the medical field. 

"They go to school for years, study for years, and they take care of the sick. In this initiative the caregiver, he has to be 21-years-old, and know how to grow pot and not have a felony drug conviction. Now, if I was a caregiver, and I'm not I don't work in the health care field, that would insult me because I went to school for all those years, and this guy gets called a caregiver because he knows how to grow a plant?" Jones said.

Ryan says he's seen many legal substances being abused, including prescription drugs, and he says medical marijuana would fall in the same category when it comes to abuse.

Jones says the law would allow someone to have a prescription for a year, which is unlike any other drug and opens the door for abuse.

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