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Recreational Marijuana Measure is Reckless

On November 6, North Dakota voters will decide if our state will have the most liberal marijuana law in the country. If Measure 3 passes, marijuana will be legal anywhere in the state, in any amount, in any form. Except for those under 21 years, marijuana will be entirely unregulated. Other states that have legalized marijuana have some controls, such as possession limits, distribution restrictions, and tax on marijuana. Measure 3 provides no such rules.

Measure 3 clearly states that any other provision of state law that conflicts is "nullified and repealed". The law against smoking in public places would not apply, nor would the law against driving under the influence of marijuana. It would criminalize the possession of medical marijuana by children and their caregivers, but it would decriminalize minor in consumption.

In other words, people could smoke marijuana in public places, law enforcement would have no authority to deal with a 15 year old who recently consumed marijuana, and a child with epilepsy who possesses medical marijuana to treat seizures and the caregiver adult who assists him would be committing a crime.

Even more concerning is that the measure says no one over the age of 21 shall be prosecuted for any non-violent marijuana related activity. There is no definition of "non-violent marijuana related activity". Driving under the influence is generally considered by prosecutors to be a non-violent crime and thus would not apply to someone driving under the influence of marijuana.

The measure supporters dispute these points and say it was not intended to cause these outcomes. If you read the language of the measure, however, it is clear that it contains no restrictions on the amount, form, or place of marijuana possession. It could be grown and sold anywhere, by anyone, in any amount.

In addition, there are serious negative health effects of marijuana use. Marijuana affects the brain and young people are especially susceptible. Research indicates that the earlier marijuana is started, the higher the risk for dependence. One study showed that people who started smoking marijuana heavily in their teens lost an average of eight IQ points between ages 13 and 38. The lost mental abilities didn't fully return in those who quit marijuana as adults.

The amount of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, has also been increasing steadily over the past few decades, which means a greater chance of a harmful reaction and a rise in emergency room visits. Legalization would send a wrong and hypocritical message that smoking marijuana is without health risks.

There are far too many questions about the language of Measure 3 and the health effects of marijuana use. Allowing marijuana anywhere, any time, in any amount, without any regulatory structure is not right for North Dakota. We strongly urge voters to read the measure before going into the voting booth on November 6. And we urge them to vote no.

Sincerely,

Tim Blasl, President

North Dakota Hospital Association

Courtney Koebele, Executive Director

North Dakota Medical Association

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The North Dakota Hospital Association is a non-profit organization comprised of hospitals, health systems, and related organizations with a common interest in promoting the health of the people of North Dakota.

The North Dakota Medical Association advocates for North Dakotas physicians, to advance the health and promote the well-being of the people of North Dakota.

This is a paid endorsement letter to the editor.

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