South Dakota Sen. Mike Rounds Breaks with Constituents on Cannabis

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Despite Election Day victories approving bills for both recreational and medicinal cannabis, Sen. Rounds still refuses to endorse federal legalization.

In a world of partisan politics, it’s become more important than ever to rely on the numbers. That’s because numbers, as we know, don’t lie.

Do the folks creating or publishing the numbers that control so much of our day-to-day world occasionally take some creative license with the results? Yes, it’s been known to happen. But far from being the status quo, any surplus of disinformation the general public now faces only underscores how important it is to support and publicize notable data.

At present, some of that data is clearly illustrating that a majority of the American populace believes cannabis reform, on a federal level, is necessary. Most recently, a Gallup study published on November 9 revealed the historic levels of support legal pot is currently enjoying.

“Americans are more likely now than at any point in the past five decades to support the legalization of marijuana in the U.S.,” wrote Gallup’s Megan Brenan. “The 68% of U.S. adults who currently back the measure is not statistically different from last year’s 66%; however, it is nominally Gallup’s highest reading, exceeding the 64% to 66% range seen from 2017 to 2019.”

Well that seems pretty compelling!

Gallup’s survey also arrived on the heels of another impressive Election Night showing for statewide cannabis measures. In addition to Mississippi voters approving medical marijuana, four states — New Jersey, Montana, Arizona, and South Dakota — legalized recreational cannabis for adults age 21 and older.

The voters in the last of those states, South Dakota, actually made a bit of history by simultaneously approving both recreational and medicinal pot (appearing on the ballot as separate measures) on the same night. More specifically, recreational cannabis passed with 54 percent voting in favor while a staggering 70 percent of South Dakotans said yes to medical marijuana.

One when combines Gallup’s findings with the voting returns in South Dakota, it’s difficult to see who precisely Sen. Mike Rounds believes he’s representing when he told national alt-weekly The New Station that he was “very, very disappointed” that his state’s two marijuana measures had succeeded.

Speaking from Washington, D.C. several weeks after the election, Rounds seemingly went against the interests of his constituents in refusing to endorse legislation that would change marijuana’s legal status at the national level.

“My opinion is that the businesses that are getting involved in this should know full well that this is very high risk versus reward,” Rounds said. “This is still a case of where, at the federal level, you got serious criminal issues regarding marijuana, and anybody that’s involved in this has got to recognize those dangers.”

Without clarifying further, one is left to assume the “serious criminal issues” Rounds is referring to are the very crimes that decriminalizing or legalizing cannabis on the federal level would eliminate. The “dangers” seem to be to those not fortunate enough to live in a jurisdiction that has thus far opted to reform pot laws on the state level.

Sen. Mike Rounds is almost certainly aware of these facts, given his position as a member of the Senate Banking Committee. And now that he represents a state where medical and recreational marijuana are both legal, will his votes when it comes to bi-partisan cannabis reforms, like banking system access, follow suit?

He’s not saying yet.

“That means he’s either playing ostrich,” reasoned Matt Laslo of The News Station, “or that he’s intimately acquainted with the federal quandary his neighbors will soon face. Because from that perch he’s been a part of hearings and privy to documents, research, and data not easily accessible to the rest of us; even senators not on his committee.”

Laslo goes on to emphasize that, like it or not, Sen. Rounds should expect to receive plenty of additional pot-related questions moving forward.

“Even before South Dakota senators had to regularly field questions on marijuana (which even they haven’t realized is now a regular part of their job description…), the Senate had been sent legislation to address these issues during the election that were quashed by inaction.”

By contrast, the words of Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, a Democrat from New York, were blunt and direct when he spoke about the need for the Senate’s Banking Committee to actually take some action on matters of bi-partisan cannabis reforms this fall.

“I think they should stop dicking around,” Maloney said.

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