Thursday, March 10, 2016

Dear Representative Conzet: Like It Or Lump It Is Not The Idea Behind Representative Democracy

      Republican Representative Kristin Conzet of Rapid City doesn't care much for the medical cannabis bill that was just killed by the South Dakota legislature.  I supported it (SB
Don't Like It?  Move.
(photo from
and even though I knew it didn't stand much of a chance, the thought of having some discussion about South Dakota being the 40th state to allow the use of cannabis for medical purposes seemed appropriate. The debate was really pretty good overall, but it was marred by opponent Conzet's "like it or leave" approach to the bill's supporters, in this case a family whose toddler's epileptic seizures are controlled by a compound containing cannabis.  If you go to 6:51 of the debate link you'll hear Conzet tell people that if they don't like South Dakota's status as a place where medical marijuana is unavailable, they can move to any one of the other 39 states where it is. As she put it, speaking directly to supporters who testified that they needed this widely accepted medicinal treatment, they have "thirty nine other options."
     This is bunk and Conzet should apologize.  Telling residents who want to change a law in their own state that they should leave if they don't like the status quo is pretty cavalier and insensitive stuff.  First off, with respect to the effectiveness of marijuana/cannabis it seems clear that some conditions are affected favorably by the drug, though the jury is still out when it comes to many others. On that basis I'm okay with legalizing it as medicine.  Heck, there are plenty of drugs with a history of mixed success  that are approved for sale in South Dakota and just about everywhere else.  Adding cannabis to that list won't be a particularly noteworthy breakthrough.
     Still, given the association between marijuana and other illegal drugs, I can understand the reluctance of our legislature to move forward with this bill. This year's effort definitely won't be the last, and in time I'm confident that South Dakota will get with the general program and join with the vast majority of other states by eventually legalizing medical pot.  Actually, I have little doubt that we'll eventually go the Colorado route and legalize marijuana altogether.  As to Conzet, her stern
Wow, Man
The Stuff Makes You Healthy, Too?
(photo from
lecture about getting out if people don't like it is a silly and ineffective way of dealing with changing attitudes and increasing knowledge about marijuana.

     As a stakeholder in South Dakota, I certainly have no intention of leaving the state because I don't like the way certain things are handled.  Despite legislators like Conzet, who have a fixation with the status quo,  many South Dakotans understand that society is organic. Evolution persists. Just the same, opposing substantive changes is perfectly okay and natural. It's also a good way of putting those changes to a test. But condemning those who support them to self-banishment?  No way.  You don't resolve a debate by tossing out your adversaries.   


  1. Shirley Harrington-MooreMarch 10, 2016 at 2:04 PM

    Several years back Senator Orrin Hatch had much the same attitude as Rep. Conzet only his shorts were in a bundle over stem cell research. That lasted until someone in his family would benefit from it. I would not wish ill health on anyone, but the lesson is there. Until the shoes that require medical marijuana fit her, she will not learn the lesson. It's a shame.

  2. Trouble is, people are leaving the state. Especially young people. The Feb. 20 guest column by Erika Unger in the RCJ is a good example.

  3. Remember how Conzet got her seat in the legislature - appointed by her father's business partner. Born on 3rd and bragged she hit a triple. Now she needs to stay home awhile.

  4. Dan, every state has people leave. South Dakota's population is growing faster than the national average and in many years we are a net importer of young college-educated professionals.

    1. DJ, I'd love to see your data about the net in/out migration of college-educated professionals. This 2014 report using U.S. Census Bureau data (go to page 12) from 2008-2012 shows that we're net importers of lower educated folks and net exporters of college educated folks, by about a 50% margin when it comes to those with Bachelors Degrees

    2. Looks like you can't link the report, but c&p'ing it to your address bar will produce some eye-opening numbers.