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Retired South Dakota Police Officer Endorses Marijuana Legalization Initiative In New TV Ad

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The campaign to legalize marijuana in South Dakota recently released an ad featuring a retired police officer speaking about why he endorses two reform initiatives that appear on the state’s November ballot.

South Dakota is one of five states that will be voting on cannabis measures next month. But it’s the only state where both medical and recreational legalization will be on the ballot. Bill Stocker, a former Sioux Falls police officer, said he’s backing both.

“I can tell you, our harsh marijuana laws aren’t working,” he said in the ad, which was published on social media last week and is airing on television.

“In 2018, 4,000 people were arrested for marijuana possession in South Dakota. That’s one in 10 arrests,” Stocker said, referencing a report that South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws published last month. “Each arrest costs $4,000. It doesn’t make us any safer. We’re wasting law enforcement time and resources that should be fighting serious crimes. So I’m voting ‘yes’ on A and 26.”

The data from that report also shows that—as is the case across the country—marijuana enforcement has had a disparate impact on people of color, despite comparable rates of consumption among white people.

On average, black residents and Native Americans in South Dakota have been more than five times as likely to be arrested for cannabis compared to white people over the 10-year period the report examines.

The new ad comes just weeks before South Dakota voters will get to decide on separate ballot measures to legalize cannabis for adult use and for medical use. And according to a poll recently released last month by opponents of the policy change, about 60 percent of voters support the broader reform proposal and more than 70 percent back the narrower medical-focused initiative.

Under the adult-use constitutional amendment, people 21 and older could possess and distribute up to one ounce, and they would also be allowed to cultivate up to three cannabis plants.

The separate medical cannabis legalization measure that voters will decide on would make a statutory change to allow patients suffering from debilitating medical conditions to possess and purchase up to three ounces of marijuana from a licensed dispensary.

With less than two weeks to go until Election Day, a variety of drug policy reform campaigns in states across the U.S. are airing ads on TV and online.

A campaign working to pass a marijuana legalization referendum in New Jersey released a series of English- and Spanish-language ads touting the measure last week.

Also this month, an Oregon campaign behind a ballot initiative to decriminalize drug possession and expanding funding for substance misuse treatment rolled out a series of TV and online ads promoting the measure.

The campaign behind a separate initiative to legalize psilocybin for therapeutic purposes in Oregon is reaching voters through a TV ad that was released earlier this month that features a state lawmaker who is also a medical doctor. Activists are also using billboards to highlight the medical potential of the psychedelic. A nonprofit veterans group recently released a separate TV ad touting the benefits of psilocybin therapy. It doesn’t explicitly mention the psychedelic reform measure, but it could help further inform how voters approach that question nonetheless.

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