SIOUX FALLS, S.Dak. – Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and Rapid City resident and former Reagan Administration Senior Official Chuck Parkinson announced today that they are endorsing Amendment A and Measure 26, the marijuana reform ballot initiatives that voters will consider this November.
Measure 26 would establish a medical marijuana policy for patients with serious health conditions. Amendment A would protect the medical law established by Measure 26, remove harsh criminal penalties for marijuana possession, and regulate marijuana for adults 21 and over.
Statement from former U.S. Senator Tom Daschle:
“I have long believed that the best way for our state and country to progress is by crossing party lines and working together, and so I’m delighted that Chuck Parkinson, a lifelong Republican, is joining me in endorsing marijuana law reform in South Dakota.
“I did not advocate for legal marijuana while I served in the Senate but, like many other Americans, my viewpoint has vastly evolved in recent years, and my passion for improving how our society delivers health care, as well as pioneering social and political change, has never been stronger.
“I also believe that legalizing marijuana for adults would substantially drive economic growth in South Dakota, creating new businesses and new jobs, as well as generating tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue. Nationally, that’s already a proven fact—11 states have successfully legalized and regulated marijuana while generating $5.8 billion in new tax revenue. And, in fact, the South Dakota Legislative Research Council estimates that Amendment A will generate a total of $60 million in tax revenue by 2024, with higher growth to follow. Half of that revenue will be dedicated to strengthening South Dakota public schools, and the other half will go directly into the State’s General Fund, which will support other important public services for South Dakotans.
“Chuck and I urge the voters in South Dakota to consider the benefits of these two ballot initiatives and see them for what they are—laws that respect personal freedom and allow South Dakotans with serious conditions to safely and legally access medical marijuana.”
Statement from Chuck Parkinson, former Reagan administration senior official:
“I was on the ground floor in the mid-1980s when the federal government launched the war on drugs, and I served in several senior staff capacities related to enforcing marijuana laws, so I know this area very well. In the past 35 years, we have spent billions of dollars fighting marijuana trafficking and usage, arresting and incarcerating hundreds of thousands of Americans at an incredibly high cost to taxpayers, and ultimately, we’ve learned that prohibition simply doesn’t work.
“In addition to wasting law enforcement time and resources, South Dakota’s harsh and outdated marijuana laws ruin lives and create barriers to obtaining housing, education, jobs, and loans, just to name a few.
“Amendment A will end the unnecessary criminalization of marijuana, defund illicit dealers and the drug cartels that supply them, allow law enforcement to focus all of their attention on serious crime, unclog our courts and our jails, and help fight the opioid epidemic. Furthermore, passage of Amendment A, which is a constitutional amendment, will ensure that the state legislature cannot repeal the medical marijuana law that will be established by Measure 26. It will prevent the legislative interference that we saw in 2017, when the Legislature repealed the South Dakota Anti-Corruption Act (Measure 22).
“People who want to use marijuana will be able to find it if they want to. The real question is whether they’re going to have to buy it from an illicit dealer in a back alley somewhere, not knowing whether it’s been laced with some toxic substance and where the profits are going to organized crime, OR whether they’re going to buy it in clean, well-lit dispensaries where the product is safe and accurately dosed and where the profits go to help pay for our kids’ education and strengthen our state. It seems like an easy choice to me.”
Former Sen. Tom Daschle represented South Dakota in Congress from 1979 to 2005 and is one of the longest-serving Senate Democratic leaders in history. He is a native of Aberdeen, South Dakota, and a graduate of South Dakota State University.
Chuck Parkinson worked as a staffer for South Dakota Senator Jim Abdnor, for President Reagan as Associate Commissioner of the U.S. Customs Service, and as a Subcommittee Staff Director for the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations. He is a native of Kadoka, South Dakota, and a graduate of the University of South Dakota.
South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws is a 2020 ballot campaign committee supporting Amendment A and Measure 26. Learn more about the campaign and the initiatives at southdakota2020.org