Rilie Ray Morgan is the Fargo man heading up the committee backing a ballot measure to legalize medical marijuana in North Dakota. The committee submitted a proposed measure to the Secretary of State’s office last week to be approved for circulation. A couple of paperwork snafus saw the proposal rejected, but I think it’s safe to say that the North Dakotans will soon be asked to sign petitions to put the measure on the 2016 ballot.
The measure is over 30 pages worth of code, which sort of illustrates the absurdity of the ballot measure process. Does anyone think that petitions signers are going to read and understand dozens of pages of proposed public policy when accosted by a clipboard-wielding signature collector? This is why we shouldn’t legislate at the ballot box, but I digress.
You can read the full measure below. Here are some of the broad strokes.
Who can buy marijuana?
Basically, only sick people would be able to buy marijuana. More specifically, sick people who have one of a dozen “debilitating medical conditions” listed specifically in the law who pay a fee to obtain an identification card from the Department of Health which, among other things, requires the endorsement of a physician.
Caregivers could also be approved to obtain marijuana on behalf of someone they’re caring for. They have to be over the age of 21 with no felonies on their criminal record. It’s worth mentioning here that a lot of the time charges for using and/or dealing marijuana are often misdemeanors.
The list of conditions for which medical marijuana can be obtained can be added to by the Department of Health through a process laid out by the measure. The public would also be able to petition the Department to add conditions. Which seems entirely too bureaucratic for my taste. If we’re going to allow medical marijuana, let the doctors decide how and for what it should be prescribed.
Qualifying patients can smoke the marijuana, or consume it on other ways (pot brownies, I suppose).
Who can sell marijuana
The measure provides for “compassionate care centers” which must be operated as non-profits. Which seems silly. Also, apparently in order to enhance the hippie factor of the measure, these centers will also only be allowed to sell organic marijuana.
“There are no pesticides authorized for use on marijuana; as such, a compassion center shall not apply pesticides in the cultivation of marijuana,” the measure states.
The centers cannot be located within 1,000 feet of a school. They must operate under bylaws submitted to the state for approval, and their books must be open to audit by the state. Even the security and video monitoring systems for the centers are dictated by the measure.
The centers would be limited to possessing no more than 1,000 marijuana plants, or 3,500 ounces of marijuana. People working at the centers must be at least 21 years old and pass a background test.
Also, those who qualify to obtain and use medical marijuana can also cultivate it themselves if they live more than 40 miles from a center. From the measure:
19-24-09 Cultivation and Growing of Marijuana
9.1.1. If the qualifying patient’s home is located more than 40 miles from the nearest Compassionate Care Center, the qualified patient or designated caregiver may cultivate up to 8 marijuana plants in an enclosed, locked facility.
9.1.2 The enclosed, locked facility shall not be within 1000 feet of a public school.
9.1.3 The qualified patient or designated caregiver must give local law enforcement officials a notice of intent to grow marijuana in a enclosed, locked facility. The notice must include qualified patient name, a copy of the written certification from the physician, and the address of the location where the marijuana will be cultivated.
The measure also creates what it describes as a “Compassionate Care Fund,” which would consist of fees collected and fines levied under the measure, as well as private donations. The funds would be used administer medical marijuana in North Dakota and make grants.
On the whole, this is a lot of regulation and bureaucracy to provide medical marijuana for a tiny sliver of the public. It seems obvious to me that a lot of this rigamarole is about quelling suspicion that this is really about opening the door to recreational marijuana use, and that’s understandable but it all goes too far.
Supporters of this measure describe it as a “stepping stone” to easier access of marijuana in North Dakota, but I still think a better debate for our state would be full-on legalization.