Marijuana is on the ballot this election cycle, and North Dakotans will get the chance to legalize the drug with just the check of a box.
The ballot measure legalizes the consumption and sale of marijuana while also expunging convictions related to pot.
Many have weighed in, including 170 police in Minott, who voted overwhelmingly in favor of an opposition measure. Many of the officers cited concerns over DUIs and public use of the drug. A poll conducted by the Inforum using the political polling site Polco gave a different story. According to the poll, North Dakotans showed overwhelming support for the bill.
Bradley Foster, president of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), helped found the North Dakota State student organization last year and received New Student Organization of the Year at the Bison Leadership Awards in May.
The organization, according to Foster, is most interested in short-term student engagement at this point. In the days leading up to the election, SSDP will inform students on the voting process.
Foster said he helped sponsor LegalizeND, the organization responsible for the ballot measure, when it was “just an idea.” The student organizer considers Dave Owen, the legislator who wrote the bill, a personal friend and was present when the bill was presented to Secretary of State Al Jaeger.
Foster said he thinks the reason marijuana is polling so well in North Dakota is because the legislature dropped the ball on medical marijuana and North Dakotans noticed.
“People have died that could have used CBD or medical marijuana to help them with their issues,” Foster said.
Not only have North Dakotans noticed the legislature dragging its feet on medical cannabis, according to Foster, citizens have noticed other states legalizing the drug and “the sky hasn’t fallen from them legalizing marijuana; there hasn’t been a Grateful Dead reunion in every town hall.”
According to Foster, marijuana is also seen as more favorable to other drugs prescribed for pain in many cases.
When it comes to DUIs, Foster said, “This bill does not legalize driving while high.” The proof, according to Foster, is threefold: the measure itself does not list driving while high as a marijuana related activity; DUI laws already prohibit driving while under the influence of substances both lawful and unlawful; and the North Dakota Supreme Court and the Attorney General’s office would listen to the people’s choice on the matter of marijuana.
If the bill is passed, Foster said it would be a “waiting game” as to whether the legislator will drag its feet on recreational usage like it did with medical marijuana.
Foster said the legislator might “be a little bit more cautious this time” because of the state’s overwhelming approval of medical marijuana. According to Foster, there is a risk for legislators who try to slow down recreational use after already stalling on medical marijuana.
Marijuana legalization will be the third measure on the ballot and has 14,637 valid signatures.
North Dakota will also vote on whether to change the state constitution to make it so only U.S. citizens and North Dakotan residents can vote in all elections. The constitution already clarifies that U.S. citizens are eligible to vote. This measure would just change the language to “just U.S. citizens.”
The bill creators said they welcome people to stay in North Dakota both permanently and temporarily, but that voting is exclusive to U.S. citizens.
Many people at NDSU are residents of a different state, so this ballot measure might make voting tougher for people who can’t get back to their home state to vote.
John Harbinson is a NDSU student and takes part in the NDSU Democrats, a politically active group on campus. Harbinson became a resident of North Dakota after moving to the state for college.
The process of changing your residency is easy, according to Harbinson. A student only has to prove they lived in the state for 30 days and they actually live in the state.
According to the North Dakota Department of Transportation website, you have to prove residency for 90 days and that nonresident students in the state for college cannot become residents.
Harbinson said he became a resident so he could “vote easier” and because his driver’s license was “going to expire anyway.”
Harbinson said this election could allow democrats to take back the congress.
At this point, North Dakota is the only state that does not require voter registration.
Ethics on the first ballot measure
Rob Port, a columnist for the Fargo Forum, expressed concerns over the bill’s effort to curtail private spending on elections in a recent commentary piece.
The measure, according to Port, would be an “affront to the First Amendment,” which grants citizens the right of free speech.
“We are left with a constitutional mandate so absurdly broad that a citizen spending their own money on fuel and meals and lodging while traveling to Bismarck to testify on a bill would have to disclose their spending to the government if the spending is over $200,” Port said in his article.
Mike McFeely, a local radio personality, recently wrote an article for WDAY about Rep. Jim Kasper’s objection to the ballot measure.
According to McFeely, Kasper’s objection to the ballot is hypocritical because of his reputation for trips to Antigua, Las Vegas and Montreal financed by donors and lobbyists.
“This is the life of a North Dakota legislator and not just Kasper,” McFeely said. “Lobbyists host parties, buy dinners, cover your bar tab, fly you to warm and sunny places, give you things.”
McFeely called the ethics committee “common sense” for the North Dakota legislature.
Free license plates for first responders
The final ballot measure would provide first responders with a red license plate free of charge.
“It could help with the (police) officers in letting firemen into the scene if they drive their own vehicles,” Jamestown fire chief Jim Reuther said. “My opinion is this is well-deserved. Volunteers don’t seem to get enough credit.”