Last week, I did something that I had never done before: I traveled to North Dakota.
This summer, the grassroots group LegalizeND successfully collected enough petition signatures to place a statewide marijuana legalization initiative (Measure 3) on this November’s general election. If enacted in November, North Dakota would become the tenth state — and by far the most politically conservative one — to legalize the adult use of marijuana in the United States.
And as if I need to tell you, that would be a game-changer in our country.
Measure 3 has a sort of beauty in its simplicity. Thirty days after passage, it removes the criminal and civil penalties for adults over the age of 21 to possess, privately consume, and privately cultivate personal possession of marijuana.
Unlike initiatives in other states, that often possessed robust and sometimes overly-complicated and exclusionary regulatory schemes for the licensing of commercial marijuana market, Measure 3 focuses on the individual consumer — not commercial businesses.
In short, it halts new arrests and expunges past convictions. It’s that simple. If lawmakers in the future wish to enact specific regulations licensing and taxing the marijuana market, that decision will be up to them.
But can Measure 3 win this November? I went to North Dakota to see for myself.
The fundamentals are strong. In 2016, voters passed a medical cannabis regulatory program with 64% of the vote. But then the legislature gutted the law, rewrote the rules, and ultimately ignored the patients who still today bear the black mark of being criminals in the eyes of the state.
And voters in North Dakota are, to say the least, very upset.
This bodes well in the event of Measure 3’s passage, as pressure would ramp up on the lawmakers to swiftly implement a pro-consumer set of rules to compensate for the new legal status of cannabis.
According to the polling by the campaign earlier this year, a plurality of voters favor the measure. In my time in North Dakota, I spoke with numerous supporters — going to door-to-door with campaign volunteers — and appeared on several media outlets to discuss the initiative.
As we like to say at NORML, “The more we’re talking about ending prohibition, the more we’re winning.”