North Dakota Republican Group Votes for Making Access to Recreational Marijuana a Constitutional Right

State Rep. Rick Becker (R-Bismarck) addresses the North Dakota Young Republicans convention in Bismarck on November 16, 2019. Photo via Facebook

UPDATE: NDYR state chairman Reed Christianson called me to clarify that the vote was intended as a “straw poll” and not really an endorsement. However the ballots circulated, which you can see below, describe the vote as an endorsement. It’s not clear if conference attendees felt that they were endorsing or not, but I wanted to include Reed’s clarification. I’ve also made some slight edits to this post to reflect it.

In yet another example of how conservative/Republican points of view are changing on hot-button social issues (gay marriage, anyone?), members of a group affiliated with the North Dakota Republican Party voted over the weekend in favor of a proposed constitutional ballot measure which would legalize recreational marijuana.

The North Dakota Young Republicans describe themselves as “a chapter of the Young Republican National Federation” and “the young professional arm of the North Dakota Republican Party.” It’s membership ranges from 18 to 40 years old.

This weekend the group had their state convention in Bismarck, featuring speeches by former Governor Ed Schafer and U.S. Senator Kevin Cramer, among others.

NDYR policy director Raheem Williams told me the convention attendees voted for the pro-marijuana constitutional amendment. “We aren’t releasing the tallies to non-members. But the marijuana legalization vote was very close,” he told me.

Here’s the question from the ballot circulated at the convention:

North Dakota has already legalized medicinal marijuana by way of a ballot measure, after years of the Republican-controlled Legislature voting the issue down. By way of the Secretary of State’s office, this is the text of the ballot measure currently being circulated which the NDYR members voted for:

A second, statutory measure to legalize recreational marijuana will also likely be petitioned this cycle.

It’s not clear if any of these measures will make the ballot. The constitutional measure backers would need to submit 26,904 valid signatures by early February to make the June ballot next year, or by early July to make the November ballot. Any statutory measure would have to hit those same deadlines, though they only need about half the signatures.

It’s too bad the NDYR had to vote on these ballot measures so early in the political cycle. I’m sure it’s a logistical thing, but it would have been interesting to see how they would have voted if a statutory option were before them, as it may very well be before voters.

Personally, I’m all for legalizing recreational marijuana, but it’s not something I want to put in the state constitution. I suspect (though this is just my speculation) the NDYR voters probably thought themselves more as supporting the idea of legalizing recreational marijuana than any specific path to that outcome.

You can see the full slate of issues the NDYR convention voted on below.

Williams tells me they also voted to support a proposed (and deeply stupid and probably illegal) constitutional amendment to limit the state Legislature’s ability to amend the constitution (read it here). The convention voters cast their ballots to oppose constitutional amendments passed by the Legislature (which will be on the ballot next year) to increase the membership on the State Board of Higher Education and lengthen the terms of board members (read it here) and a (very badly needed) amendment giving the Legislature veto power over constitutional amendments passed by voters (read it here).

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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