This guest column comes from longtime marijuana-reform advocate Bob Newland of Hot Springs.
With a record of having sponsored and managed seven failed statewide cannabis-related ballot measures during the past 25 years, I was a logical candidate to manage a cannabis-related ballot issue petition drive in Meade County, SoDak.
There are three distinct stages of a ballot question campaign, conception, gestation, and birth (or stillbirth). Conception consists of, “Hey, why don’t we change this law?” If sperm meets egg in the conversation which follows, then it’s time to gestate.
During gestation, the ballot-fetus is exposed to challenges like starvation and such. People outside the conception group must like the fact of its gestation, and feed its mother so she can feed it. Eventually, often in November, the ballot-baby is delivered, dead or alive. If it lives, it’s because its parents managed to convince enough people that it was worth feeding.
In my attempts to change laws in SoDak, lots of people supported the conception, which largely consisted of “It’s crazy to put people in jail for possessing a vegetable,” and they fed the gestation well enough to produce stillbirths.
In the Spring of 2022, I find myself part only of the gestation, rather than having partaken in the conception, of a cannabis-related ballot question in the farm-team leagues of petition circulation–“County Ordinance Initiatives.”
I have to suppose that is partially because, while I have thrown my share of lances at windmills, I have at least brought lances to the battle. In my tortured metaphor, I am trying to say that I have a deserved reputation of having put issues on ballots, even though the questions failed at the polls.
There is now being circulated a petition containing a ballot question in Meade County which challenges the validity of a county ordinance which grants a license to operate a medical cannabis dispensary to one, and only one, licensee. I’m running this signature drive which will, the sponsor hopes, effect change in several key elements of current Meade County SoDak law. The state of this currently-gestating fetus at its birth is of no concern to me, other than I have a certain amount of moral outrage over the current law in Meade County. I don’t live in the affected county. My Fast-Clipboard-for-Hire contract only obliges me to deliver a product that survives the Petition Signature Validation Process. Whether it survives a subsequent vote is the problem of the folks who paid for the petition drive.
In 2020, SoDak voters approved a ballot issue setting out some rules for the administration of a naturally-occurring weed as a palliative to certain medical conditions suffered by current and prospective voters. In other words, the various jurisdictions in SoDak would be able to administer the retailing of Medical Cannabis in somewhat the manner those jurisdictions chose.
Meade County, through its County Commission, chose to issue no permits to grow, possess, test, make CBD munchies, or sell “medical cannabis.” From what I hear, the Meade County Commission was advised by Jason Ravnsborg, notorious Dakota Free Press fan, that it would have to at least issue one license for the county. So, a few weeks ago a Meade County “Medical Cannabis Dispensary” license was issued to an entity called “Puffy’s,” based in Rapid City SoDak.
My sources tell me that Puffy’s was granted an ewxclusive privilege to the extent, at least, of county commission representatives lying to other aspirants to the license. It’s not important to my goals in this endeavor whether any of my overheard insights of skullduggery are accurate. The fact is, the Meade County Commission codified in Meade County Ordinance 53 that it would issue one license. It then issued that license to the first application they opened and said, “Puffy’s won the lottery.”
So, I am circulating a petition in Meade County SoDak that asks Meade County Voters whether they’d like to see the County Commission allow a reasonable amount of Medical Cannabis availability across the high plains of the largest county in South Dakota. Two million acres, 3483 square miles, 29,852 people.
I say to them, “Hi. I’m circulating a petition to induce the county commission to allow more than one medical cannabis dispensary ion the county. Do you live in Meade County?” If the answer is affirmative (most who qualify have by this time stuck out a hand for the clipboard), I then ask if they’d like to help us put the issue on the ballot. Seriously, among people I’ve asked who claim to be Meade County Voters, the signature rate is better than 85%.
I am face-to-facing a couple hundred people per day, about 60% of whom claim to be registered to vote in Meade County. Actually only about 70% of that group turn out to have a good (some are questionable) match in the voter list I purchased which purports to be the same list the state uses for Meade County Voters. In downtown Sturgis SoDak, the county seat of Meade County, almost everyone has an opinion on the License Awarding Caper; almost everyone thinks the one-dispensary-limit in Meade County is seven layers of bullshit.
I plan to revisit Dakota Free Press with further installments of “Have Clipboard – Will Travel.” Meanwhile, here’s Meade County Ordinance 53, and here’s our proposed amendment to that ordinance, the one I’m showing folks:
The other side contains the signature lines.
I have been hired to accomplish a mathematical goal. I have become intrigued with “Why?” Why, Meade County, did you do the things you did? One unintended consequence was to provide me with a fairly substantial fee for bringing this attempted correction of your policy home.
In 2020, Meade County approved Amendment A 52% to 48%. It approved Amendment 26 (Medical Cannabis) 60% to 40%. I like those numbers. In Meade PH#%^*&(*))g County, SoDak, fercrissakes.
Bye for now.
“His Fast Clipboard for Hire Meets the Calling Wind”