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Guest Column: Newland Recounts Experience with Long Arm of the Law, Questions Approval of Sole Medical Marijuana Dispensary License in Meade County

Bob Newland, guest columnist, petitioner, marijuana advocate.
Bob Newland, guest columnist, petitioner, marijuana advocate.

Hot Springs-based marijuana reform advocate Bob Newland provides this second guest column on his effort to petition for an initiative on medical marijuana licenses in Meade County. 

I’ve had a couple of days off from asking people if they’d like to help right a wrong on Meade County. The wrong is a county-endorsed monopoly on the right to market a legal product. The right is available through a vote, but only after we have obtained the signatures of at least 930 voters registered in Meade County, SoDak.

After SoDak voted, in 2020, to allow sick people to have legal access to the palliative effects of cannabis, Meade County passed an ordinance that gave the right to sell cannabis to one, and only one, retailer. Naturally, a number of folks, each of whom claimed to have at least $125,000 available to purchase a license, were disappointed when, sometime in March or April of 2022, there was a local (western South Dakota local) news story about the fact that a company called “Puffy’s,” based in Rapid City had been allocated the license, and that the allocation entity had violated its own conditions for allocation.

These allegations appear to be facts to me. And there are a few other weirdnesses about the transition from 50 years of rather-effective illegal dispensing of cannabis in Meade County to those who needed it, more-or-less,—to a “legal” dispensary system. I have lived in or near the Black Hills of SoDak all my life, apart from about four years back in the ’68-’72 era. I have consumed cannabis, mostly by smoking buds (with some experimentation with vapes, gummies, under-tongue tinctures, and some other gimmicks), more days than I have abstained for 55 years. I have had a seat in the first row behind home plate (without a foul-ball protective net) for the game in which political aspirants set their hair on fire to appear to be the most-tough on drug crimes.

Laws prohibiting the possession or ingestion of a substance have always offended me. The Inquisitors have always violated their own written code of conduct. Their victims, of whom I was one, suffered disparities in punishment for like “offenses” that tax one’s sensibilities. I was popped in 2009 for possession of “more than two ounces of ‘marijuana.’” I was sentenced to a year in the state pen, conditional to my successful completion of the following regimen:

  1. I had to do 45 days in “work release.” A friend “hired” me to work on commission to drive around the Hills and sell ads. During this period, from about August 2009 until October, I sold some ads and sold some weed.
  2. After work release, I would be on probation for the rest of my sentence, 10.5 months. My probation officer said I had to have a job. He said the job could not include selling weed. He said I could accept “mystery-shopping” assignments. Thus was born a career that saved me from ending my working life as a bartender or some such.
  3. During my sentencing hearing, 7th SoDak Judicial Circuit Judge Jack DeLaney, appeared to compare me to Muhammad Ali, who, DeLaney said, “had not fled to Canada, but had stayed in the USA to face the consequences of an unpopular political position,” or something like that. Then, in addition to the work-release and probation-or-prison assignments, he said I could not speak or write publicly “in advocacy of marijuana law reform” until my probation had been satisfied.” The inherent weirdnesses within DeLaney’s speech still astound me.
  4. Another part of my sentence originally subjected me to wear an ankle bracelet, but Pennington County was out of them. Automatically, I was required to appear at a “24/7” center twice a day and blow in a tube. The results were only evidence of consumption or non-consumption of alcohol. I didn’t enter work release until six weeks after my sentencing, but I had to do the 24/7 immediately. That required 60 miles per day of driving for no other purpose. My lawyer requested relief from this requirement. Judge DeLaney replied to my lawyer, “Frankly, I don’t give a shit whether or not Mr. Newland drinks alcohol or not.” He immediately sent a revised probation statement to my Probie. ALL probation statements to Probies in SoDak include a prohibition against drinking alcohol or hanging out with druggies. Mine, amended, included a ballpoint-obliteration of the line dealing with being in bars, or drinking or hanging out with druggies. I could hang out with druggies, but I couldn’t do drugs. My Probie tested me the day I first met him. He did not test me again, in 11 appointments. He tested me the day he released me from probation. He also said, “I have never, in 20 years of doing this, seen a probation direction that allows a probationee to drink.” I think I was the subject of better-than-average treatment for an “offense” that has resulted in the deaths of other “offenders.”

I relate the preceding anecdote as a testament to my front-row seat to injustice. I operated in several Northern Hills counties, including Meade, during a period when I had first-person encounters with many acts of perfidy on the parts of elected and hired government actors. I will not name names, as the guilty will simply deny the charge and I have no “proof.”

I’m circulating a petition in Meade Co. SoDak that asks, principally, that the county allow more than one entity to attempt to sell legal cannabis products to qualified buyers. It has already allotted one license. Its County Ordinance #53 prohibits any more licenses in the county.

Why? Why did a government board allocate a license that was supposed to be chosen without prejudice to the first application it received? This, even though there were about half a dozen other applications submitted to what the submitters thought was going to be a lottery.

The preceding two paragraphs are established fact. I believe the established facts support my allegations and memoir in the previous paragraphs.

Bob Newland

“Have Clipboard-Will Travel”

Wire Newland: Hot Springs

9 Comments

  1. larry kurtz 2022-05-10

    Bless your heart, Bob. Unless tribal communities have exclusive production and marketing privileges Big Dope will ultimately control all cannabis sales in South Dakota just like gambling syndicates do in Deadwood and bikers do with meth.

  2. Bob Newland 2022-05-10

    I am not quite sure whether the “bless your heart” is sardonic or not. As for your wish for tribes to control the production and market, that will happen when braids are chiseled on the heads at Mt Rushmore.

  3. larry kurtz 2022-05-10

    Meade County seems the least likely place in South Dakota to advance a cannabis initiative so much that it begs the question as to who benefits because it certainly ain’t patients.

  4. Bob Newland 2022-05-10

    My clipboard for hire meets the calling wind.

  5. grudznick 2022-05-10

    My good friend Bob certainly did encounter some perfidious local fellows up there in the County of Lawrence, back in the day.

  6. Francis Schaffer 2022-05-10

    Well there goes my Farmer’s Market plan for pain relief.

  7. Arlo Blundt 2022-05-10

    Bob–had a similar dust up in my life with a similar outcome. Glad to have just lived through it. Jack Delaney is descended from a long line of doctors in Mitchell, I believe. A very well respected family. His rulings seem realistic (he was a judge after all) and quite rational considering the alleged crime, the alleged perpetrator, and the rockin social environment of the Hills in the 70’s. You survived to fight another day, like Muhammad Ali. Congratulations, you’re winning.

  8. grudznick 2022-05-10

    All that said, and of course grudznick agrees that my good friend Bob is ‘winning’ by not being in jail or strung out on something worse than the demon weed, we probably should’t assume that “Puffy’s” is all bad. They may be a fine establishment in their own right. But a little competition wouldn’t hurt.

  9. Prairie Dog Mike 2022-05-11

    Have any municipalities in South Dakota considered operating cannabis dispenseries? I recall my little hometown had a municipal package liquor store and forced the local bar to buy their alcohol there. And Brookings, when I was in college and the county was dry, had a city monopoly on the package liquor business in town.

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