Earlier this week, South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws and New Approach South Dakota held a well-attended Zoom media availability conference that lasted for more than an hour. Participants in the call included Brendan Johnson, former U.S. Attorney for South Dakota; Chuck Parkinson, former senior Ronald Reagan and U.S. Senator Jim Abdnor staffer; Melissa Mentele, campaign manager for Initiated Measure 26; and Drey Samuelson, political director of South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, which oversees IM 26 (to legalize medical marijuana) and Amendment A (to legalize adult-use marijuana).
Reporters from all over the state attended the press conference, as well as reporters from Politico and Cannabis Wire.
The most comprehensive article was written by veteran South Dakota reporter, Bob Mercer, who now works for KELO News. Read the article here. KELO-TV also covered the Zoom conference on their 6 p.m.and 10 p.m. news broadcasts, which you can watch here.
In his coverage, Mercer noted a key point on the relation between the two initiatives:
“Melissa Mentele of Emery is sponsor of Initiated Measure 26 that would legalize medical marijuana in South Dakota. Mentele told reporters Wednesday the constitutional amendment would provide political protection for her proposal. The Legislature can’t change the South Dakota Constitution.”
There are many strong arguments for Amendment A, but one of the most important is the fact that it places into the South Dakota Constitution a provision that protects IM 26 from being picked apart by the South Dakota Legislature, a very real concern if Amendment A isn’t there to protect it.
Lee Strubinger represented South Dakota Public Radio and gave this audio report.
Like Mercer, Strubinger also noted Mentele’s point on how Amendment A (adult-use) protects Initiated Measure 26 from legislative tampering. Strubinger also reported on how Amendment A would decrease incarceration costs and put an end to what former U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson refers to as the state’s “over-criminalization problem” with cannabis:
“By dropping prohibition we have we will reduced the criminalization of a generation of South Dakotans,” Johnson says. “Which is in our best interests, in my view.”
Stephen Groves from South Dakota Associated Press attended and filed this report, highlighting the connections between the current movement to reform policing and the criminal justice system and the legalization of marijuana:
“The current movement to reform policing and criminal justice laws after the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer may lend momentum to the campaign to legalize, said supporter Brendan Johnson, a former U.S. attorney who was appointed under President Barack Obama. “People are more conscious than ever about the concern of over-criminalization,” Johnson said. “Law enforcement priorities should be focused on significant crimes.”
Finally, Alyson Martin from Cannabis Wire was also in attendance, with a headline accurately noting that South Dakota voters could make cannabis history in November:
“I think what we’re going to see in South Dakota on this issue is really a coalition of both Democrats and Republicans coming together and [saying] prohibition does not work. It has not worked in the past. And it’s time, for the interest of our economy as well as the next generation, to get this right,” said Brendan Johnson.
Martin's entire article can be viewed here.