On Nov. 2, 2015, North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger accepted a petition to put a medical marijuana measure on next year’s electoral ballot. Previously Jaeger had rejected the petition due to formatting errors, but it was accepted after changes were made.
Jaeger now has seven business days to come up with a petition title that summarizes the medical marijuana measure.
After it has been approved, the group circulating the measure, The North Dakota Committee for Medical Marijuana, will have until July 11, 2016, to gather 13,452 valid signatures to officially qualify for the ballot.
Under the proposed measure, patients suffering from debilitating conditions would be able to possess up to three ounces of medical marijuana, which would be purchased in state-licensed dispensaries. Those that live 40 miles or more away from a dispensary would be able to grow their own marijuana.
But the catch to the home grow rule is that patients must notify law enforcement of any marijuana cultivation, which would raise privacy concerns for some. Patients would also have to grow their marijuana in a locked and enclosed area, which could be difficult for the seriously ill.
However, while there are aspects of this bill that marijuana advocates may not like, it is unlikely that a more permissive measure would be politically palatable and here’s why:
The legislature has already rejected a previous medical marijuana bill, citing the usual reason that the potential risks outweigh any benefits of legalization.
While that may not be surprising, the legislature also rejected a bill aimed at studying medical marijuana. Rep. Todd Porter told the Grand Forks Herald that the reason for killing that bill was that they felt the legislature couldn’t do anything more.
“I don’t know that … there really is anything else for the Legislature to study until the clinical trials are done, until the U.S. Food and Drug Administration would change the classification of marijuana, and until we get through some of those hoops to satisfy the law enforcement,” Porter said.
Support for medical marijuana is not much better in the general public.
A 2014 poll found that only 47 percent of voters approved of medical marijuana. Among senior citizens, the age demographic most likely to vote, 53 percent of voters did not support medical marijuana.
That is a steep demographic hill to climb for medical marijuana supporters, and with legislative pushback it is bound to be even tougher. But a lot can happen within a year and with increased voter turnout during presidential elections, 2016 might be North Dakota’s marijuana moment.