ND Capitol brings heat over pot

Published: Sep. 25, 2019 at 11:30 PM CDT
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With two ballot measures on recreational marijuana coming in 2020, the North Dakota Judiciary Committee discussed what that would look like.

While discussing the prospect of legalizing recreational marijuana, legislators heard from advocates and community leaders on how the state would organize such a bill. Karmen Hanson works for the National Conference of State Legislators, based in Colorado.

"What I get a lot of questions about are the impacts on transportation, driving under the influence, the social affects that come along with it," Hanson said.

Addressing those concerns is what brought down the last ballot measure over legalized pot.

Tempers ran high as Dave Owen, leader for the failed measure in 2018, discussed a revised 46-page version of the legislation with West Fargo Representative Kim Koppelman.

Koppelman: "It creates a large beuracracy to regulate all of this. Have you calculated the cost or asking for a fiscal notice?"

Owen: "If I remember correctly representative Koppleman, it was yourself who brought up the concern with the last measure that it wasn't sufficiently regulated, and that we needed a vast regulatory structure in order to legalize it."

Koppelman: "I understand that and I don't think I said that. I might've said it was poorly written; I don't think I said there should be heavy regulation."

Human health isn't all that's at stake. One advocate stood for the possible benefits for chickens.

"North Dakota should at least consider looking at the agricultural benefits of marijuana as animal feed so that people can be able to eat meat that has been emotionally conditioned by its last day getting stoned," Bismarck resident Andrew Alexis Varvel said.

A long path to the ballot box, but the state is preparing the framework if approved.

If both recreational marijuana ballot measures are approved by voters, the one with the most votes will be implemented.