Two South Dakota lawmakers are pushing to allow anyone arrested with under two ounces of marijuana to use medical necessity as a defense in court. The bill would not legalize medical marijuana or allow for medical marijuana sales, but instead would give individuals arrested with under two ounces of marijuana a chance to defend their need for the drug for medicinal purposes.
Senator Craig Tieszen and Representative Dan Kaiser plan to introduce the legislation today. Tieszen explained, “All they can do is defend themselves in court. They can bring their experts, they can show their disease or illness, and let the judge and jury decide.”
Kaiser, a former police chief, stressed that police would still confiscate the drug at the time of arrest and the person would still be booked on criminal charges, but the bill would make a medical defense viable in court.
State Attorney General Marty Jackley opposes the medical necessity defense. He explained, “A medical necessity defense will in reality go a long way toward legalizing marijuana by making it more difficult to enforce marijuana laws and require a medical examination and expensive battle of experts with taxpayer money in too many instances.” Jackley believes marijuana is a gateway drug that will lead to abuse of other drugs and violent crime.
Tieszen and Kaiser spent much of Tuesday gathering signatures of support from other legislators as co-sponsors for their bill. It could be submitted today, the final day for unlimited introduction for legislation.
A similar bill was also just introduced in Texas. House Bill 594 would protect patients if they were arrested on marijuana possession charges and give them an affirmative defense in court. Similar measures have been introduced in past sessions in Texas, but none have been successful.