Medicinal Marijuana Is The Wrong Debate For North Dakota To Have

medical marijuana

A group hoping to legalize medicinal marijuana in North Dakota submitted a proposed petition to Secretary of State Al Jaeger today. Unfortunately, due to problems with the paperwork, Jaeger rejected the petition.

Which, frankly, doesn’t speak highly for the competence of the folks running the campaign. As we’ve seen with petition campaigns in past election cycles – whether they’re low-budget volunteer efforts or the well-financed work of professionals – this can be a tricky process where casual blunders can waste a lot of time and money. Heck, a medicinal marijuana petition campaign back in 2012 was derailed by petition fraud perpetrated by a group of NDSU football players, wasting the $45,000 spent on gathering signatures. That fraud also kept a conservation measure off the ballot which cost organizers $145,000, and 2010 a paperwork snafu kept a petition to repeal North Dakota’s pharmacy protectionism off the ballot.

If the organizers of the medicinal marijuana campaign want to be successful they’d better get their act together.

But I’m not sure I want these people to be successful. It seems to me that a debate over medicinal marijuana is the wrong debate for North Dakota.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]Put the question of full-on legalization of marijuana use squarely before North Dakota voters with none of this nonsense about medicinal use so that we can have a robust and transparent debate about what is  undoubtedly the real endgame of the petition organizers anyway.[/mks_pullquote]

We need to be debating full-on legalization of marijuana.

One public perception the proponents of medicinal marijuana will have to fight should they get their issue on the ballot is that their effort is just a trojan horse for legal recreational use of marijuana.

A way to get around the state’s prohibition on marijuana use.

And, frankly, I think that perception is probably right. While I have no doubt that marijuana does have some medicinal uses, those uses are pretty narrow and would only benefit a sliver of the population. Most people who would support this sort of a measure will do so not so much for medical reasons but because they think the prohibition of marijuana generally should be ended.

So why not just embrace that? Put the question of full-on legalization of marijuana use squarely before North Dakota voters with none of this nonsense about medicinal use so that we can have a robust and transparent debate about what is  undoubtedly the real endgame of the petition organizers anyway.

That’s the debate I want to have, because I do think marijuana should be generally legal, and I think legalizing it only as a highly regulated medicine used only in situations allowed under the law isn’t much of an improvement over the status quo of total prohibition.

So much so, in fact, that I’d probably vote against legalizing medicinal marijuana.

With public sentiment on marijuana shifting, and others states having legalized full-on recreational use, now is no time for North Dakota to play footsy with the medicinal marijuana charade.

Discussion question: If we do get ever get measure on the ballot to legalize marijuana to one degree or another, where will the state’s entrenched tobacco gestapo come down on it? Marijuana proponents claim that pot is less of a health risk than tobacco, but the American Lung Association doesn’t seem to be buying it. Will the North Dakota Center for Tobacco Prevention and Control, a state agency which also operates as BreatheND, really sit on the sidelines and let marijuana be legalized in the state?

You wouldn’t think so, but it would be fun to watch the anti-tobacco crowd go to war with the pro-marijuana crowd given that there’s a pretty significant overlap between those two groups.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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