Hemp supporters upset with ballot loss

Toby Uecker

Toby Uecker

Following a sound defeat in the Nov. 5 election, supporters of Intiated Measure One blame a poorly informed electorate for the decision not to allow industrial hemp as a crop in South Dakota.

The measure failed with 62 percent of the electorate opposed and 38 percent in favor.

Bob Newland, one of the leaders in the movement to adopt the constitutional amendment, said if voters had been properly informed, the election would have gone differently.

“At the polls, voters didn’t have the benefit of someone explaining the absurdity of the government policy on hemp,” Newland said in an e-mail sent to supporters and news media last week.

“What they saw was a vaguely contradictory statement devised by the attorney general.”

Newland attributed the confusion chiefly to the wording of the attorney general’s explanation on the ballot, which read, “Initiated Measure One proposes a law that would make it legal under state law, but not under federal law, for a person to plant, cultivate, harvest, possess, process, transport, sell or buy industrial hemp (cannabis) or any of its byproducts with a tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content of one percent or less.”

Newland took issue with the mention of federal law in the explanation.

He said, “We think that the phrase … probably had a confusing, therefore negative, effect on those who were not familiar with the proposal.”

As evidence of his opinion, Newland pointed out that in places where voters were better informed on the measure, it received greater report.

He used South Dakota’s Indian Reservations as an example. In these areas, Newland and fellow supporter Ron Holton had a radio show every week. In addition, Natvie Americans had previously discussed the issue, and the Lakota Journal, published in Rapid City, supported the measure.

In the end, though, Newland said, “The cumulation of 80 years of government-sponsored lies, and the recent upsurge in such disinformation, is difficult for a few people to overcome.”