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Legalizing medical marijuana in N.D. approved for November ballot

BISMARCK - North Dakotans will vote this fall on whether to legalize marijuana for medical use, one of five measures that will appear on the November ballot, Secretary of State Al Jaeger said

Jody Testaberg, propagation manager at LeafLine Labs in Cottage Grove, examines marijuana plants that will be used in the state's medical cannibis programs. Hundreds of plants are carefully cultivated in the room lit with sodium vapor lamps so bright that the workers routinely use sunglasses. Bob King / Forum News Service
Jody Testaberg, propagation manager at LeafLine Labs in Cottage Grove, Minn., examines marijuana plants that will be used in the Minnesota's medical cannibis programs. Bob King / Forum News Service
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BISMARCK – North Dakotans will vote this fall on whether to legalize marijuana for medical use, one of five measures that will appear on the November ballot, Secretary of State Al Jaeger said Thursday.
Sponsors needed 13,452 signatures to put the initiated measure, which they’ve dubbed the Compassionate Care Act, on the Nov. 8 ballot. They delivered 18,011 signatures to Jaeger on July 11, and 17,217 were accepted as qualified electors.
Sponsoring committee chairman Rilie Ray Morgan, a financial adviser from Fargo who suffers from chronic pain, said it was “pretty gratifying” to see so many signatures collected by the 107 volunteers who circulated petitions, and that more than 17,000 were counted as valid.
Backers are still discussing their campaign strategy but will likely call on volunteers for knocking on doors, handing out brochures and other campaign activities, Morgan said. He hopes to have a fundraising website set up by next week.
“We’ve done this on a shoestring budget, but obviously we’d like to get some donations so we can do some advertising, as well,” he said.
If approved, the measure will allow qualifying patients to possess up to 3 ounces of medical marijuana for treatment of about a dozen debilitating medical conditions, including cancer, epilepsy, AIDS and glaucoma, while allowing the state Department of Health to add more.
The Health Department would issue ID cards for patients and regulate state-licensed dispensaries. People living more than 40 miles from the nearest dispensary could grow up to eight marijuana plants in an enclosed, locked facility after notifying law enforcement.
North Dakota House lawmakers defeated a bill last year to legalize medical marijuana.
The Health Department has estimated the measure would require adding 32 full-time employees and cost $8.7 million to administer in the first biennium, including $1.4 million in one-time costs – figures Morgan has criticized as fearmongering designed to make voters think the state can't afford it.
Morgan said he’s not aware of any organized opposition but expects the measure may encounter some resistance from law enforcement and state legislators.
“It’s going to be a process of educating the medical community, too, but I don’t think they’ll be against it, per se,” he said.
The measure is modeled mostly after Delaware’s medical marijuana law, with parts also drawn from Arizona and Montana, Morgan said. He acknowledged the 34 pages of proposed amendments to North Dakota law “might be overly complex,” but he said no piece of legislation is perfect.
“We wanted to make it relatively restrictive so people didn’t have concerns that it was going to be the wild, wild west of marijuana in North Dakota,” he said.
Since California voters first approved medical marijuana in 1996, 24 more states and the District of Columbia have enacted similar laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Sponsors of a separate measure to fully legalize marijuana didn’t collect the required signatures by the deadline for the Nov. 8 ballot but said they’ll shoot for the June 2018 ballot.
Jaeger said he will release the numbering of the five ballot measures Friday. The other measures propose raising the state’s tobacco tax, expanding crime victims’ rights, prohibiting lawmakers from serving in the Legislature unless they live in the district where they were elected and allowing excess money in the state’s Foundation Aid Stabilization Fund to be used for education purposes other than offsetting budget cuts.

Related Topics: AL JAEGER
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