Earlier this week the organizers of an initiated measure to legalize recreational marijuana in North Dakota submitted a proposed ballot measure to Secretary of State Al Jaeger for approval to circulate (full text included in this post). But the proposed change to the law goes further than merely legalizing marijuana. It also requires that the court system seal and expunge from their records any information pertaining to past convictions for marijuana-related charges that would be legal under this measure.
Does that mean people in jail on drug charges would be released? Josh Dryer, a spokesman for the measure, says no.
“Expungement will…only take it away from your record,” he said of the measure’s intent. “This is not going to let people out of jail.”
As for the larger question of legalization, Dreyer said there is an on-going “normalization of marijuana” in America and that North Dakota needs to keep pace. He also said that the implementation of the medical marijuana law passed by voters last year has been a “catastrophic disaster” and the hope is that a blanket legalization of cannabis would “allow the sick to get their medicine.”
The measure is very broad in its legalization. On that point, it merely removes mention of marijuana from the state’s criminal statutes, while providing no regulatory mechanisms for lawful commerce with the drug. Dreyer said that was on purpose. The organizers of the measure want voters to answer the question of whether or not marijuana should be legal, and for lawmakers to figure out the rest.
“There is going to be things the legislature has to do,” he said. “We don’t want to exclude the legislature from doing their jobs. There are things we left open for them to work on.”
The only regulation the measure would put in place is a prohibition on marijuana possession or use by citizens under the age of 21. It requires that the punishment for underage pot possession/use be equivalent to similar charges for underage alcohol possession/consumption.
Here’s the full audio of our interview. If you want to get the full audio of my radio shows, subscribe to the podcast.