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Libertarians Use Cannabis Petitions to Promote Party

The Libertarian Party of South Dakota has 1,905 registered voters, 0.348% of the state’s total active voter pool. Thus, Job #1 for South Dakota’s Libertarians is to recruit new members. (That’s Job #1 for any political party, isn’t it?)

What better way to positively raise a party’s profile in an election-off year than to get involved with petition drives and put not one but two initiatives reflecting the party’s values to a statewide vote? Two pro-cannabis campaigns walked into the Secretary of State’s office yesterday with petitions claiming to have enough signatures to place medical marijuana and general legalization of pot and hemp on the 2020 ballot, and Libertarian Party chair Gideon Oakes is saying his party helped those petition drives succeed:

“South Dakotans, by nature, are an independent bunch,” said Gideon Oakes, state chairman of the LPSD. “From firearm ownership to freedom of religion, and to the ingestion of plants, we don’t appreciate government telling us what we can and can’t do in our personal lives.

Members of the LPSD worked alongside New Approach and SDBML in passing petitions, including Devin Saxon, who gathered more than 900 signatures.

Saxon, of Lennox, spent many hours collecting those signatures, fueled by optimism that his efforts could lead not only to legalization of marijuana next year, but perhaps a change in the way the state views hemp, CBD oil and other cannabis-related products.

“South Dakota is a top-tier state in which to reside, and our residents continue to push for the expansion of free markets as well as an end to a costly drug war,” Saxon said [Libertarian Party of South Dakota, press release, 2019.11.04].

Saxon is also the Libertarians’ communications officer. He and Oakes both know how to grab these ballot measures and turn them into advertisements for the values of their party. By citing their consistent support for personal liberty, limited government, and free markets, Oakes and Saxon perfectly distinguish their party’s true conservative values from their main competition for conservative voters, the South Dakota Republican Party, which rabidly opposed and ridiculed the petition drives.

Saxon and Oakes also take this opportunity to portray their party as an opportunity for citizens to engage and change South Dakota politics:

Saxon urged those interested in this topic, as well as other civil liberties, to get involved in the political process and register as a Libertarian.

“Perhaps one day legislators will follow suit. But until that day, get out and vote next November,” Saxon said. “We will be the change we want to see” [LPSD, 2019.11.04].

Readers wishing to play philosophical word games may ask the Libertarians how they can claim to be “conservative” while advocating for “change.” Oakes and Saxon can deftly avoid such persnickets by pointing out that, with these petitions, they are advocating for change away from the restrictions supported by the hypocritical Republican Party and back to a more rational, limited role for government in medicine and the market.

But the prime message here is that Oakes and Saxon show that they understand how to use ballot measures to build their party: latch onto issues that publicize your party’s values, actively circulate petitions to establish yourself as a useful ally of the sponsoring organizations, be seen on the streets as an active and effective advocate for policy change and voters’ rights, and then invite those tens of thousands of people who supported the petition drive to multi-tuple your party’s registration.

Related Reading: Melissa Mentele, sponsor of the medical marijuana initiative, claims to have submitted 35,180 signatures, 107.4% more than the 16,961 required to place a proposed law on the 2020 ballot. Brendan Johnson, sponsor of the broader constitutional amendment to legalize medical and recreational marijuana and industrial hemp, claims to have submitted 53,377 signatures, 57.4% more than the 33,921 required to place a constitutional amendment on the 2020 ballot.


  1. Certain Inflatable Recreational Devices 2019-11-05 12:32

    Freeing the weed.

  2. Debbo 2019-11-05 23:28

    Good work by both groups and good luck with the voting.

  3. John Dale 2019-11-06 10:39

    I would think that SDDP is going to get some big help from the national ranks .. symbolically, SD turning blue would be real coup.

    The Libertarian party would gladly be used by SDDP to split the republican vote like in KY recently.

    But SDDP has no real loyalty to the Libertarian Party or Libertarian ideals, right?

    What exactly are the principles of the SDDP at the moment? What are those guiding tenets that comprise the heart and soul of SDDP right now?

    Is survival the core principle?

  4. John Dale 2019-11-06 11:52

    bearcreekbat – I’m familiar with those. Do you think that being rabidly anti-Trump serves the stated goals?

    For instance, if Pelosi would focus on USMCA, SD farmers would be helped.

    What is SDDP doing about monopolistic behavior in technology and agriculture by pursuing government controls on cannabis?

    In reading over the platform, I see some goals that seem at odds like environmental sustainability, biofuels production, local fuels production, and focus on agriculture.

    I also saw a lot of references to family farming, but I see a trend to get rid of the family farm and push families to urban centers.

    Lastly, “family” and “home school” work very well together, to have a “family farm” requires family working synergistically with one another, yet home school is nowhere to be mentioned.

    Also, I’m wondering of SDDP is living up to the ideals stated in the platform. I’m seeing very little strategy, and a lot of lofty goals that seem maybe designed to align with federal program requirements.

  5. bearcreekbat 2019-11-06 12:20

    Dale, I only saw one question from you that seems relevant to Cory’s cannabis post and to me that question is unintelligible.

    As for the meme claiming Democrats are “rabidly anti-Trump,” I tend to disagree. Instead, as best I can tell Democrats are “rabidly anti-” Trump’s criminal behavior, fraud, sexual abuse, constant and verifiable prevarication, abusive Twitter attacks on less powerfui people, advocating and implementing policies leading to caging children, removing dreamer protection, wasting monmey allocated to the military on a wall that Mexico was supposed to pay for, foreign policy that abandons our allies and praises dictators, tax cuts for the rich coupled with cut backs in assistence to the needy, public education, and environmental protection, among other pernicious policies and behaviors.

  6. John Dale 2019-11-06 12:24

    bearcreekbat – if this is the standard, how can you ignore Epstein’s manifest and its inclusion of the clintons?

    Bill Clinton got a hummer in the oval office .. did you support his impeachment?

    President Trump is not perfect, but it seems like an honest evaluation of what he is doing is difficult to find in the DNC, whose representatives have little to say about Agenda 21, The Patriot Act, 5G, fluoride in the water, and other more relevant subjects than what criticisms are being leveled against President Trump.

    Making sense of the SDDP’s platform is difficult .. it is tough to criticize, but not because of its cogency.

  7. Certain Inflatable Recreational Devices 2019-11-06 12:31

    John Dale. How many signatures did you collect on your pot petition?

  8. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-11-06 12:40

    Dems are a side issue here. The main point is that the Libertarians recognize how ballot measures can be used to energize party members, publicize the party’s values, and recruit new members. Libertarians now need to keep that conversation going, connect with the people who signed these petitions, convince them to continue their activism on other issues and use the Libertarian Party as their vehicle for that activism.

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