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Group emerges to oppose North Dakota pot legalization measure

The legalization opposition group is spearheaded by out-of-state activists.

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A marijuana plant is pictured in this file photo.
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BISMARCK — A group has emerged to oppose a measure that would legalize recreational marijuana for adults in North Dakota.

Fargo addiction counselor Kristie Spooner filed paperwork on Wednesday, Oct. 5, to create a committee called Healthy and Productive North Dakota that will publicly oppose Measure 2, according to a news release.

New Approach North Dakota’s measure would legalize the possession and purchase of small amounts of marijuana for adults 21 and older. The 19-page statutory measure would also allow adult residents to grow limited amounts of cannabis and implement policies to regulate retail marijuana stores.

Spooner served as the chairwoman of a successful campaign to defeat a pot legalization measure in 2018. She is joined in this year's campaign by national anti-legalization activists, including Luke Niforatos and Connor Kubeisy of Virginia-based Smart Approaches to Marijuana.

Niforatos said the legalization measure is an attempt by the marijuana industry to take root in North Dakota "no matter the consequences for public health and public safety."

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"Measure 2 would result in more youth using marijuana, more traffic fatalities from marijuana-impaired drivers, more marijuana-related emergency department visits, and countless adverse physical and mental health effects,” Niforatos said.

Kubeisy said the legalization measure lacks "critical safeguards" needed to prevent youth from using marijuana.

"Measure 2 leaves open the possibility for there to be unrestricted advertisements for marijuana, no warning labels or child-resistant packaging on products, no potency caps, and no ban on the industry targeting kids,” Kubeisy said.

Mark Friese, a Fargo lawyer who serves as Measure 2's treasurer, said it's disappointing to see the opposition group "resorting to fear tactics right out of the gate rather than engaging in an intellectually honest debate."

" Studies conducted by public health departments in other states as well as peer-reviewed research consistently show that marijuana use among high schoolers does not increase following passage of adult-use legalization laws," Friese said in a statement.

State Rep. Matthew Ruby, a Minot Republican on Measure 2's sponsoring committee, rejected the opposition group's claim that the measure lacks safeguards for children.

"I'm a father of four young children, and I'm behind Measure 2 precisely because it includes so many responsible safeguards and limitations," Ruby said. "To claim that Measure 2 was written without regard to public health and safety is simply not true."

The opposition committee did not report raising or spending any money on the campaign in its first filing.

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Mail-in voting began Sept. 29 in North Dakota. The general election is Nov. 8.

Jeremy Turley is a Bismarck-based reporter for Forum News Service, which provides news coverage to publications owned by Forum Communications Company.
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