Bismarck Tribune Says Vote NO on 3

October 17, 2018

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of editorials in which the Tribune Editorial Board takes a position on measures and candidates in the Nov. 6 election. At the bottom is a schedule of future editorials.

Because of the uncertainty of the language of the measure and the potential risks the Tribune Editorial Board recommends a no vote on Measure 3 which would legalize marijuana for those 21 and older.

Supporters describe Measure 3 as a simple effort that removes marijuana from the Schedule 1 Substances list. That would allow personal use, distribution and possession for those 21 and older. It also seals previous records if the defendant were of age, did not distribute to minors, and were nonviolent. Finally, it legalizes hemp for full-scale agricultural production.

The Tribune wishes it was a simple and clear measure, but it’s not. We have favored decriminalization of marijuana, but this measure goes too far. There are no guidelines for establishing businesses that want to sell marijuana or rules on the potency or type of marijuana that can be sold. Plus, the measure takes effect Dec. 6, leaving little time for the state to get organized since the Legislature doesn’t go into session for another month.

Sealing court files in many ways would be a lost cause. Any marijuana case that drew coverage from newspapers or other media could still be found online. In this digital age stories never go away since they are shared so many times they all can’t be deleted.

There’s a major roadblock to legalizing hemp production — it’s controlled by the federal government. And, on the federal level, marijuana remains illegal. Federal officials haven’t cracked down on states that legalized marijuana, but it remains a possibility. It’s unlikely the federal government would look favorably on major hemp production. While the Tribune doesn’t see hemp as a drug issue, the government feels differently.

Many health officials believe marijuana poses hazards and serves as a gateway drug to more dangerous substances. They are convinced it’s harmful to the developing brains of youth. There are concerns that businesses will suffer when employees are tardy or fail to come to work or are involved in on-the-job accidents.

Supporters argue that Measure 3 will increase tax revenue as stores open to sell the drug. And that it will end what are now illegal sales. We doubt the measure will end all “corner” sales of the drug and there’s nothing about regulating marijuana so the consumer knows what’s being purchased.

The argument that Measure 3 will provide marijuana for those with health issues is weak. The state is close to launching its medical marijuana program, so that option will exist. Not everyone agrees with how the program was set up, but it will be available.

The day may come for legalized marijuana in North Dakota, but that day shouldn’t come with Measure 3. We urge a no vote.