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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Last Letter to Legislators this hunting season

Following is the text of SoDakNORML's final Letter to Legislators for the Political-Favor-Begging-and-Sucking Season of 2013-2014.
This will be our last Letter to Legislators for a while. Every recipient of this letter now knows that SoDakNORML believes there to be no public order issue, no issue over damage to oneself or others, no scientific or medical ramification that justifies making criminals of people who possess cannabis.

Since we sent our first Letter to Legislators in early September, 1760 people have been arrested for a violation of SDCL 22-42-6. Of that number, about 450 have paid or will pay about $500 each in fines, with maybe 10 or 12 going to jail for more than a couple days. Penalties to their employment situation and damage to their families amount to considerably more. This carnage and extortion will have exactly no effect on cannabis use. It will, however, cause substantial damage to the lives of a substantial number of the 450 convicted people. For what? What has been accomplished?

During the 14 years ending in June 2012, 82402 arrests for violations of 22-42-6 were recorded. That's a number equal to ten per cent of the population of South Dakota. What was accomplished by those arrests? They did not reduce the number of people using cannabis in South Dakota. Are we South Dakotans so petty as to simply assess a "getting caught tax" for an act that creates no significant harm, if any harm at all?

We have heard from three recipients of this letter in regards to our previous letters. We are not encouraged by the responses.

The current cannabis-related laws in South Dakota assure a vigorous unregulated, untaxed, age-irrelevant market in cannabis in South Dakota.

Every recipient of this letter has a choice regarding these matters. He or she can endorse the current policy, assuring continuance of a vigorous unregulated, untaxed, age-irrelevant market in cannabis in South Dakota. Or he or she can voice opposition to a policy that costs at least $4 million per year in public money and provides no benefits to anyone except those involved in the chew-em-up-and-spit-em-out public policy regarding cannabis.

The fact that we have heard almost nothing from any of the recipients of these letters leads us to believe that we are largely unopposed in our assertions. The lack of communication also leads us to believe that there will be no effort by any recipient of this letter to save the State of South Dakota a considerable amount of money by stopping the practice of fining and jailing people for committing an act that poses no threat to public order.

South Dakota could take a big step in that direction by codifying a right to accused persons that should be available under common law and common sense but is not, apparently, in South Dakota. We assume that is because the legislature thinks judges and juries are too dumb and gullible to hear evidence that suggests that cannabis has beneficial effects for some people with some physical ailments. There is an axiom: The easiest thing for a legislator to do on a given issue is, usually, nothing.

We remember Judge Tim Dallas Tucker's comments in a hearing (Summer 2003, State Capitol, Pierre SD) on criminal code reform; "Allowing a medical necessity defense in marijuana possession cases would be a burden on the courts." We interpret that to mean; "Administration of justice is a burden on the courts." What else could he have meant? Is not a cannabis possession arrest every 90 minutes a "burden on the courts?"

Please help us put a halt to this senseless carnage and affront to the consciences of compassionate people.

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