Washington D.C. advocacy group in North Dakota in support of recreational marijuana

Sep 21, 2018

A Washington DC advocacy group has arrived in North Dakota to support the Measure 3 campaign.

Measure 3 would legalize marijuana for adult use and cultivation. Erik Altieri is executive director of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. He says NORML has a 50 year history and they've worked in several states that have already legalized marijuana for recreational use. Altieri says North Dakota is 5th in the nation for per capita incarcerations related to marijuana, and this measure would help keep otherwise law abiding citizens out of jail. He says much like campaigns they've worked on in other states, here they will educating the public about recreational marijuana.

"We inform voters by providing them information in the form of scientific studies, data and statistics about how this has played out in other states where this has been done. We address concerns of the electorate. We mobilize grass roots supporters to talk to their neighbors and members of their community to encourage them to support these initiatives. So far, based on what we have seen in all the other states that have legalized, it's a far better policy than the current policy of prohibition and incarceration."

Altieri says states that have implemented medical recreational use of marijuana have seen as much as a 25 percent reduction in opioid addiction and overdose deaths. Political director Justin Strekal says the legislation would be beneficial to veterans. He says 22 percent of veterans report using cannabis to treat ailments, but if they do it in North Dakota they are considered to be criminals.

"With 22 percent of the veterans population reporting to consume for medical purposes, general population surveys traditionally only show 13 to 14 percent of the American population at large report to be consumers of marijuana, be it for either medicinal or private purposes.  So the veterans community is leading on this issue; and they desperately need those protections as individuals who have stood up and put on the uniform to defend our freedoms - for them to be viewed as criminals in their hometown communities is absurd."

Law enforcement in North Dakota is not in support of Measure 3, saying it would prevent legislative ability to provide reasonable restrictions on recreational marijuana use. Altieri says those concerns are overstated, because the legislature can change or add to the initiative with a two-thirds vote, as well as use a simple majority to impose a general taxation system like Colorado.