Our ballot measures stop at ten—medical marijuana doesn’t make the cut!
Secretary of State Shantel Krebs and her team finally finished reviewing the medical marijuana petition circulated by Melissa Mentele of Emery and determined it does not have the 13,871 signatures necessary to place it on the ballot with the seven other voter initiatives, two voter referenda, and one legislatively referred amendment on the 2016 ballot.
New Approach SD said they submitted 16,631 signatures on November 9, 2015. Secretary Krebs calculates the group submitted 16,543. The Secretary’s 5% random sample found a 45.48% error rate, meaning she calculates the medical marijuana petition only had 9,019 valid signatures.
If I went for the stereotypical shot, I’d say I wasn’t surprised. If a petition has “marijuana” in its text, expect error. The 2010 medical marijuana initiative had a 40.5% error rate. The circulators of the broader marijuana decriminalization petition last year couldn’t even get enough signatures to submit.
But Melissa Mentele didn’t strike me as the stereotypical pothead playing at politics. When I interviewed her at the Brown County Fair last summer, she struck me as a serious and effective organizer. New Approach SD got an infusion of cash that allowed them to hire petition circulators at $25 an hour during the last couple weeks of the petition circulation period in late October and early November, which might have signaled that someone else recognized Mentele’s organizational merits and guaranteed that the signature count would clear the bar.
But that last-minute infusion turns out not to have been very big. Remember that payday lender Rod Aycox spent $1.7 million on his paid circulators and blocker goons to boost his fake 18% rate cap petition. Real 36% rate cappers Steve Hildebrand, Steve Hickey, Reynold Nesiba and friends spent about $32K in direct and in-kind contributions (including $2,000 from Tom Daschle! Way to engage, Tom!) to collect their 19,936 signatures.
New Approach SD spent $17,277.50. Their cash infusion appears to be four dudes, including Mr. Mentele:
Robert Havens runs a medical cannabis clinic in Anaheim, California. The other three named donors are South Dakotans. And their combined efforts apparently couldn’t buy enough valid signatures to put medical marijuana on the ballot.
But New Approach SD isn’t giving up. They get the same thirty days to challenge the Secretary’s rejection that citizens get to challenge the Secretary’s validation of a petition. But right now, Mentele’s team is focusing on the legislative route. Shortly after the Secretary’s rejection of their petition, New Approach SD issued this call to action:
We were notified today that our petitions did not pass the validation process. Our initiative will not be on the Nov 2016 ballot….however we have a very small window to pull a rabbit out of our hats and have the Legislature sponsor the same bill.
Our bill was submitted to the LRC today to be put into legislative format by a compassionate SD Senator. Now we need to do some work to help her out. Our best chance of getting some reform passed this session lies with the Health and Human Services Committee. We need their Chair and Vice Chair from both houses to sponsor this bill. What we need is all of you to contact:
Sen. Bruce Rampelberg
Sen. Arthur Rusch
Representative Scott Munsterman
Representative Leslie Heinemann
You can also go onto the website of http://legis.sd.gov and look up the Health and Human Services Committee members & contact them.
Be respectful and tell them your story and why it is so important to have access in SD. Be honest and ask them to please sponsor this bill to help SD’s most fragile residents.
We have until Friday at 8am to have them help us. The bill is there in the LRC office and all it needs is a compassionate group of our elected officials to move it forward [New Approach South Dakota, Facebook post, 2016.02.03].
New Approach SD can challenge the Secretary’s rejection of their petition. But if they can find a couple sponsors, put their 95-section medical marijuana initiative before the Legislature, and make the case in committee, could get their law on the books without having to wage a statewide campaign. It’s a longshot, but then so is overturning a 45.48% error rate and proving that the Secretary of State was wrong about 4,852 signatures… or, if we’re talking about the 5% random sample, that SOS Krebs was wrong about 377 out of 828 signatures.
p.s.: She wasn’t wrong about my signature! While I was visiting the Secretary of State’s office last week, elections coordinator Rachel Schmidt turned to me and asked if she needed to check the voter registration database for my name. I asked why. She was working on the 5% sample of the medical marijuana petition and had drawn the signature line that I signed last August. I did what I could to keep that error rate below 50%!