North Dakotans to decide on marijuana legalization

In November North Dakotans will decide on the legalization of recreational marijuana

State officials announced that North Dakotans will make the decision via a ballot measure this fall, two years after voters approved the medical marijuana.

Although medical marijuana has been legal since 2016, it is still unavailable to the public.

If the ballot measure passes, would allow “non-violent marijuana-related activity” for North Dakotans, 21 and up.

The motion would permit the use, sale, possession, and distribution of marijuana for anyone 21 and over.

The measure permits unlimited possession and growth of marijuana. It also opens the door for the state to erase marijuana-related criminal records.

On Monday, Secretary of State Al Jaeger stated that Legalize ND (the group pushing the ballot measure) submitted 14,637 valid signatures last month. This was about 1,200 more votes than required.

Campaign committee chairman, David Owen, a University of North Dakota student, is leading the measure. He stated that he views legalization as a criminal justice reform.

He added that too many people have been imprisoned, therefore becoming ineligible for student loans. Many have paid far more severe penalties for possessing marijuana as well.

Owen describes marijuana as a less harmful drug than alcohol or opioids.

“Because of a plant, they are now barred for the rest of their life from ever really achieving what they could be. And that is the real crime of the war on drugs.”
Dave Owen, celebrates a high-five with volunteer Becky-Muhs-Rettig inside the Secretary of State’s office at the state Capitol Bismarck (Image via Bismarck Tribune)
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The North Dakota Sheriff’s and Deputies Association have already passed a resolution opposing the legalization of recreational marijuana.

Mark Friese, a former Bismarck police officer is sympathetic to Owen’s arguments but stated the measure is “very broadly written”.

He added that the provision was also “inartfully drafted” and doesn’t account for those who have non-cannabis convictions alongside their marijuana offense.

“You can’t seal part of a case file, you can’t seal one charge because the charging document would have both.”

It is estimated that in North Dakota 9.8 percent of people ages 12 and older used marijuana in the past year according to the latest national survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

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