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Newshawk: Sledhead
Pubdate: Thu, 17 Aug 2000
Source: Argus Leader (SD)
Copyright: 2000 Argus Leader
Contact: editor@argusleader.com
Address: P.O. Box 5034, Sioux Falls, SD 57117-5034
Fax: (605) 331-2294

Author: Lee Williams


A South Dakota lawmaker says he will introduce a bill during the next legislative session that
would legalize marijuana for certain medical purposes.

Rep. Ron Volesky, a Huron Democrat who is a candidate for the state Senate, said he's been
studying the issue for some time.

"I am not open to decriminalizing marijuana -- period. This issue is about trying to help a few
citizens who could benefit from this legislation, like those with cancer or glaucoma," Volesky
said. "If we approach this issue with an open mind, reasonably, we could draft and pass
legislation in this area that could be of some benefit to people in this state."

Volesky said he had a bill drafted last year but did not introduce it because of a heavy
legislative load.

Rep. Thomas Hennies, a Rapid City Republican who until last month was the city's chief of
police, thinks the proposed legislation is a good idea.

"I do not favor legalizing marijuana for just anybody, and I would need to see the controls.
But I wouldn't be opposed to it if it was prescribed by a doctor," Hennies said. "It seems
funny to me that a doctor can prescribe morphine, which is highly addictive, but can't
prescribe marijuana."

An Argus Leader story that ran Tuesday profiled Matthew Ducheneaux, a quadriplegic who
uses marijuana to control muscle tremors. He was arrested for misdemeanor possession at
last month's JazzFest.

Ducheneaux had a note written on prescription paper from a Sioux Falls physician that implied
he used the drug medicinally.

Ducheneaux said he thought the note would prevent his arrest. It didn't. But it did fuel the
debate about medicinal marijuana.

Both lawmakers say they have studied the issue and the policies of other states.

Hennies said the California model is problematic. There, stores are set up to distribute the
drug, he said. Those wishing to purchase marijuana must have a card issued by a physician.

"That's not the way to do it," Hennies said. "It should be prescribed by a physician and
issued through a pharmacy."

Both representatives agree that strict controls are mandatory.

"I want to sit down with law enforcement and hear their objections," Volesky said. "Then we
need to talk to the medical community, and get input from the Department of Health, to see
how to fashion some type of regulation."

One man who said he's been told by physicians that he would benefit from medicinal
marijuana said he would support the bill.

"Damn right I do. I'd fund raise for it," said Kyle Baas, 33, of Alexandria.

After two injury accidents, Baas suffered major trauma to his neck that leaves him in chronic
pain. He describes himself as a "walking quadriplegic" who is unable to maintain any quality
of life.

Baas spends his days in bed or a recliner, though he doesn't use a wheelchair.

"If I want to do something, like play with my son, I have to sleep for days to catch up," he
said. "I don't do a lot of outdoor activities. It hurts too much."

He knows marijuana would help. He shuns the synthetic alternatives.

"Marinol is not the actual chemical composite of marijuana," Baas said. "It's only half the
dose of what people need."

South Dakota is one of the few states that arrests for misdemeanor possession, he said.

"If I lived in California, the state would even pay for it," Baas said. "Why is it legal there, and
illegal here? That's ludicrous."
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