Pubdate: Tue, 28 Sep 2010
Source: Argus Leader (Sioux Falls, SD)
Copyright: 2010 Argus Leader
Author: Jonathan Ellis


Supporters cite healing benefits; full legalization next, foes

Supporters of a measure to legalize small amounts of marijuana for
medicinal use Monday sought to assure the public that it would not
create pot dispensaries or open the door to full legalization.

"This is about ill people. It's only about ill people. It's not a
free-for-all," said Tony Ryan, a retired police officer whose wife
suffers from multiple sclerosis.

The assurances are being made amid concerns among some Americans that
marijuana legalization will lead to addicts. Monday's Sioux Falls
rally also comes in the midst of a nationwide trend of states
legalizing the drug for medicinal purposes. In some of the 14 states
that have approved marijuana legalization laws, shops dispensing the
drug already have popped up on city streets.

Emmett Reistroffer, campaign director for the South Dakota Coalition
for Compassion, called South Dakota's version "the most restrictive
medical marijuana option in the nation."

Supporters made their remarks during a rally launching their campaign.
It included endorsement speeches from Kermit Staggers, the former city
councilor and Republican state senator, and Democratic state Rep.
Martha Vanderlinde, a registered nurse.

The rally also came on the same day that Allen Unruh, an organizer for
a local tea party group, denounced the measure as a back-door effort
to legalize pot, which he complained would lead to widespread laziness
among users.

"One of the side effects is, they would not want to work," Unruh said.
"Unemployment is already through the roof."

Unruh's tea party group was host to a luncheon featuring Minnehaha
County Sheriff Mike Milstead and state Rep. Blake Curd, a Sioux Falls
surgeon, who spoke against medical marijuana. Experience in other
states, Milstead said, shows that the number of so-called "patients"
quickly mushrooms while the number of physicians prescribing marijuana
stays the same.

Curd noted that marijuana is not a regulated drug, unlike other drugs
that doctors prescribe.

Potency varies widely, and users don't know how the drug was grown -
whether a grower used pesticides or fertilizers. "I think you're
looking at something that doesn't have a useful place right now," he

But at the rally supporting medical marijuana, Vanderlinde said she's
encountered many patients in her 28-year nursing career who would have
been helped by marijuana.

The drug is cheap - unlike a lot of pharmaceuticals prescribed to
people with chronic illnesses.

"It will improve the lives of many South Dakotans," she

Staggers said he hopes it can help a close personal friend who has
suffered from debilitating pain for six years.

"This person I know who is suffering from pain is not about to break
the law, but this person is hoping that Initiated Measure 13 passes."
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