Kudos to state Senator Kristin Roers for bringing back legislation to decriminalize marijuana by way of a floor amendment this week.
The bill passed on a 37-10 vote, and thanks to the amendment brought by Senator Roers it would reduce the penalty for possessing less than a half ounce of marijuana to a $250 fine. Possession of paraphernalia, like a marijuana pipe, would be a $100 fine.
Legislation to decriminalize marijuana – that is, to make marijuana crimes less criminal – backed by Rep. Shannon Roers Jones (yes, they’re related) was defeated by lawmakers earlier this year. The amendment offered by Senator Roers will now go to the state House for approval, and from there (hopefully) on to Governor Doug Burgum for signature.
This is a step in the right for marijuana policy, don’t get me wrong. But it’s not enough.
It won’t address the most pressing problem marijuana prohibition presents society, which is a thriving and very lucrative black market that enriches criminals and criminal organizations.
Despite everyone saying that policy like Senator Roers’ amendment is “decriminalization,” it doesn’t make marijuana legal. It only lightens the penalties for some infractions involving marijuana.
Growing marijuana, outside of North Dakota’s legal medical marijuana industry, is still illegal. Transporting marijuana, particularly in large quantities, is still illegal. Dealing, possessing, and using marijuana is still illegal.
Thus the black market for marijuana would persist despite this legislation. North Dakotans looking to purchase and use marijuana for recreational purposes would still be forced into commerce organizations of criminals as opposed to going to reputable business owners who conduct their transactions in the light.
If this legislation passes the consequences for using non-medical marijuana will be lighter. That’s a net good for our society, but we need so much more.