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SD Lawmakers Debate Medical Marijuana



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On Tuesday the health and human services committee is scheduled to vote on an issue that has South Dakota legislators divided. The measure calls for letting people who are charged with possessing small amounts of marijuana to be able to defend themselves in court by arguing they need it for medical reasons.
    
The second legislative coffee for the 88th session of the South Dakota Legislature started out with quick responses to questions, then on to the next question. But there’s one measure that got lawmakers talking- a measure that would let people who are found with small amounts of marijuana defend themselves if it’s used for medical purposes.

State Rep. Anne Hajek said there is no need to fix something that isn’t broken.

"Our medical community is doing just fine with the options available to them. And I think this is just an excuse,” said State Rep. Anne Hajek.

An excuse she said will only open a door for more problems.

(It's) a gateway drug, and you will find no hard criminal drug users with something other than marijuana,” said Hajek.

But the biggest reason Hajek won’t support the measure is that there’s already leeway for those who say they are using marijuana for medical reasons.

“Prosecutorial digression, if someone is in a cancer state, I'm guessing there aren't too many prosecutors in this state that are going to go after them,” said Hajek.

State Rep. Marc Feinstein doesn’t quite agree.

“To do it for medical purposes, I think, that's a noble goal,” said State Rep. Marc Feinstein.

But Feinstein also said it may reduce stress for those who already use it, knowing what could potentially happen.

"Sometimes the right thing for their health may involve a criminal act, but if we can make it a legitimate defermative offense, I think it’s a positive step forward," said Feinstein.

But both agree, this measure could help take a closer look at South Dakota’s criminal justice system.

"Really it’s a positive step in reducing what happens in our criminal justice system,” said Feinstein.

“We do need to look at treatment issues and taking care of people, and incarceration is not the answer,” said Hajek.
Current and former law enforcement officers who also serve on the South Dakota Legislature proposed the measure.

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