On Friday the North Dakota legislature passed Senate Bill 2154 which delays implementation of the state’s new Medical Marijuana measure (known as Measure 5) that was overwhelmingly approved by 65% of voters last November. The bill now goes to the desk of Governor Doug Burgum, who will most likely sign it.
If the bill is signed into law, implementation will be delayed until August 1, 2017. Lawmakers were quick to defend their actions against proponents of Medical Marijuana, stating that the delay is necessary to ensure appropriate regulations are in place for the management of the new law.
These actions are not a surprise. Many voiced their concern about how poorly written Measure 5 was and some warned it would create a bureaucracy that would cost the state a lot of money. Estimates are that Medical Marijuana will cost the state roughly $3.5 million a year to regulate.
While I can understand why the legislature has sought to delay implementation, I cannot help but wonder why we are bothering with this issue at all? The state could save themselves a lot of headaches and money by just legalizing recreational use of marijuana. Doing so would suddenly make the Medical Marijuana issue a moot point.
I have never used marijuana, nor do I plan on doing so. I despise drugs. Having said that, our criminal justice system is inundated with non-violent drug offenders. Over 50% of federal prisoners are drug offenders, while as of 2014 just 8.4% of the adult population uses marijuana. The War on Drugs has been a colossal failure.
When the legislature rejected a Medical Marijuana bill some years back, they were warned by proponents that they would go through the initiated process to accomplish it if necessary. And they did. As the state now faces the daunting task of implementation of Messure 5, perhaps the legislature should revisit the idea of full-on legalization and be done with it.