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Mentele Challenges Rejection of Medical Cannabis Petition, Alleges Major Errors by Secretary Krebs

This week’s Don’t Give Up Award goes not to Rep. Fred Deutsch, who grimly promised today to spend all summer coming up with a stronger, better, faster way to punish transgender kids for being themselves next Session (assuming he wins reëlection) but to New Approach South Dakota chief Melissa Mentele, leader of the effort to legalize medical cannabis in South Dakota.

When Secretary of State Shantel Krebs rejected New Approach SD’s petition to put medical cannabis to a statewide vote, Mentele scrambled her troops and convinced legislators to write her detailed 95-section initiative into a bill. Now that the Legislature has decimated that comprehensive proposal into a three-section pilot plan legalizing cannabis derivative (cannabidiol) for treatment of one malady (intractable epilepsy), Mentele is taking one last shot at putting her initiative to a vote: she’s formally challenging the Secretary’s ruling on her petition.

Mentele submitted this challenge affidavit this afternoon, during the final hour of the thirty-day challenge window for her petition. The 14 pages consist mostly of petition lines from the Secretary’s random sample that the Secretary invalidated but which Mentele contends should count. Let’s look at the first and last pages of the affidavit to see the meat of the challenge argument:

Mentele challenge affidavit, 2016.03.03, p. 1
Mentele challenge affidavit, 2016.03.03, p. 1
Mentele challenge affidavit, 2016.03.03, p. 14
Mentele challenge affidavit, 2016.03.03, p. 14

Now I’ve been trying to do some math to figure out what the challenge needs to establish to reverse the Secretary’s rejection. According to press reports, the Secretary calculated 16,543 submitted signatures on the medical marijuana petition. By statute, the Secretary checks a 5% random sample of the submitted signatures for valid voter ID and complete petition information. 5% of 16,543 is 828 signatures.

Mentele shared with me the Secretary’s check sheet. It shows a sample of 988 checked signatures. That’s a 6% sample. Checking a random 6% sample of the signatures seems harmless, perhaps even a better guarantee that the Secretary properly evaluates the quality of the petition, but Mentele argues that a 6% sample is illegal and thus invalid. Since we can’t just chop off the last page or two of the check sheet and maintain the required randomness of the sample, Mentele argues that the Secretary needs to at least throw out her initial rejection and re-sample the petition.

Amidst that oversample, Mentele also claims to find evidence of gross error on the part of the Secretary in throwing out voters. Mentele’s affidavit lists 91 voters rejected as not appearing on the voter rolls who allegedly do appear in the voter rolls. If (if, if!) the Secretary of State’s office misidentified one out of eleven registered voters as not registered on a petition, imagine what could happen at the polls in June and November. Mentele’s affidavit contends that error rate in itself calls for redoing the certification process on the medical marijuana petition.

Mentele identifies even more valid signatures that were rejected due to notary error. Many of those errors were the absence of a year on the notarization or notary expiration date.

Notaries, notaries, notaries—get these things right.

Petitioners, petitioners, petitioners—check that your notaries get these things right.

You readers know that I’m a stickler for following the petition rules to keep fraud off the ballot. But Mentele cites SDCL 12-1-11, which says petitions “shall be liberally construed, so that the real intention of the petitioners may not be defeated by a mere technicality.”

Secretary Krebs may stick to her rules and leave it to the courts to provide any liberal construal to save Mentele’s petition bacon. The Secretary’s press release (and you know where you can find press releases) reminds us she has no statutory deadline to rule on the challenge. Her only real deadline is August 16, the day by which she must certify copies of all ballot questions to the county auditors. Theoretically, she may want to be fair to all parties and issue rulings on all three pending petition challenges (Mentele’s, mine, and the pathetically weak payday lenders‘) by May to give disappointed parties time to seek satisfaction in court.

Due to uncertainty about sample size, I can’t tell if Mentele has the numbers to win this challenge. But she certainly has determination to bring a comprehensive medical cannabis plan to the voters of South Dakota.


  1. barry freed 2016-03-04

    Thank you Ms. Mentele!

    How can we help or contribute?

  2. larry kurtz 2016-03-04

    Good for you, Melissa. I don’t buy your definition of medical cannabis but i do support the need to let voters decide how the legislature should codify the law.

  3. Lynn 2016-03-04

    I knew there were plenty of loopholes for abuse in this initiative which basically made it a softened/tug at your heart strings recreational marijuana ballot measure but didn’t realize until listening to opponent testimony just how bad this initiative was.

    Opponent testimony on SB 171 really exposed this for what it was and the problems that have resulted in Colorado and it coming over to South Dakota. Might as well just sell it as a recreational pot vote.

    Too bad they didn’t write it the same as Minnesota’s medical marijuana law.

  4. larry kurtz 2016-03-04

    Cops’ lives suck. That South Dakota’s legislature doesn’t get jurisprudence comes as little surprise.

  5. Bob Newland 2016-03-04

    Lynn, you may be among the most evil people I have ever had the pleasure not to have met.

  6. larry kurtz 2016-03-04

    Bob, $20 says I’m way more evil than our imaginary friend, Lynn.

  7. Les 2016-03-04

    15 months ago a gal with 5 felonies in Pennington was given 5 years probation for meth: manufacturing, distribution, consumption, DUI and a class 6 theft. Her treatment was at a Full Circle in RC with more drugs in house than out in the local street. This year with an additional 3 felonies she might plea bargain to five years with parole in 2-3.

    Public defender says they are overwhelmed with the volume.

    This particular gal does so so, if she smokes mj. We need treatment for hard addictions, not more jail time.

    Mark Vargo is darn sure looking good and compared to the past corruption in that office, he’s looking great.

  8. Bill Dithmer 2016-03-05

    There is no such thing as doing meth because you did marijuana. If you do meth, that and that alone is the reason you do meth.

    Part of your problem Lynn is that you dont understand that pot and meth are different in the way your brain translates cause and effect. Cannabinoids in pot have cannabinoid receptors built right into the body, imagine that.

    Meth goes the same way pharmaceuticals and processed opiates and are asimalated into the body. It disturbs lever functions and weakens the natural linings around your brain. It rots your teeth. It wrecks your heart, and robs your appetite. From the very first time you use it the process begins. Your brain starts to rewire itself by rerouting formerly good neuron connections to places they should never go.

    That can never happen with pot.

    The Blindman

  9. leslie 2016-03-05

    how about wine? on an intl flight a loved one sipped the 1st time. after college, job in the west, well hello meth. all within 3 years. pot was introduced on campus by floor head during emergency. 1+ years later remedial dental work is done.

    point: your anecdote doesn’t apply to anyone else.

    the softball coach bought beer for the team in high school or jr. high for another loved one.

  10. leslie 2016-03-05

    10+ years. anyone know why editing creates unintended consequences?

  11. Bill Dithmer 2016-03-05

    When are we going to get past the naysayers perception of what THC is and how it works in the body? That old dog crawled out from under the porch twenty years ago.

    Isnt it time to put more energy, and money into cannabinoid science? The art of genetically engineering the different cannabinoids to get the most good for what is hurting your body.

    There is research being done as we talk, but the registered growers are taking the lead mostly through trial and error. Just think what could happen if cannabis was reclassified?

    Could that be the last piece of paper that the president signs before he leaves office? Let hope so.

    The Blindman

  12. mike from iowa 2016-03-05

    Since no one is looking closely,how many overdose deaths have been attributed to LSD,besides the one in Mississippi last year?(Mississippi claims it was an od,but the actual cause of death was from the victim suffering asthma attack and being hog-tied and strapped face down on a stretcher)

  13. Douglas Wiken 2016-03-05

    Alcohol is the most common “gateway” drug. Taking that first drink is like playing Russian roulette with a 7-shot revolver. Better to never take the first drink than to take your last drink prior to sentencing or treatment.

  14. Les 2016-03-05

    Opiates, mifi. No one is looking closely at those overdose deaths and their destruction along the way.

    Agreed, Blindman. Meth addicts can use mj to get by when off meth.

  15. mike from iowa 2016-03-06

    Les-no one is looking at LSD ods because there are none. Not a single one has ever been recorded,kinda like mj ods.

    No one is looking closely was my way of trying to sneak this post in under the radar,since it was off topic and Lynn wasn’t around.

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