North Dakotans on November 6th have the unique opportunity to end the states failed experiment with marijuana prohibition, to cease arresting adults for most marijuana-related offenses, and to vacate the past convictions of many former, low-level marijuana offenders. By voting "yes on Measure 3, you will be voting to end the needless discrimination of our fellow citizens for their possession and use of a plant that is objectively less harmful than alcohol and tobacco.
Today, North Dakota ranks near the top of all US states in annual marijuana arrests per capita. Each of these arrests consumes police hours and resources that are not being allocated toward more serious criminal activity, such as targeting violent criminals. Further, those saddled with past convictions face a litany of lost economic opportunities and cultural stigmas. A vote for Measure 3 is a vote to end wasteful spending, to reprioritize our limited resources, and to defend individual liberty and fairness.
Data from other marijuana legalization states shows that ending marijuana prohibition significantly impacts the opioid crisis. Numerous studies find that opioid-related abuses, hospitalizations, and deaths decrease significantly following cannabis legalization. This is good news for North Dakotans. In 2016, more than three times as many North Dakotans died from opioid overdoses than from homicides. Passage of Measure 3 can reverse this trend.
Although North Dakotans overwhelmingly voted in favor of a state-regulated medical marijuana access program in 2016, lawmakers have done their best to restrict and delay its implementation. For example, did you know that, as amended, it would difficult to impossible for individuals suffering from PTSD, anxiety, or depression to obtain legal access to medical cannabis? Providing safe and legal cannabis access is particularly important to our honored military veterans. A recent poll from the American Legion revealed that an estimated one in four veterans currently utilize marijuana to treat a mental or physical ailment. Locked out of the medical program, we are forcing those who put their lives on the line for this country to become criminals for simply choosing a safe and effective treatment. Passing Measure 3 will protect our veterans and tens of thousands of others.
North Dakotans have the chance to embark on a new and sensible approach on marijuana when they go to their polling places on November 6th. Thirty days after its passage, adults will no longer be arrested again in North Dakota for possessing or using marijuana period.
Executive Director, The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML)
This is a paid endorsement letter to the editor.