An Attack on Civil Demands
North Dakota Lawmakers Propose Delaying Medical Marijuana
A proposal to delay implementation of medical marijuana in North Dakota has cannabis advocates shaking their heads. Their refrain might read, “Don’t bogart that joint, my friend.”
State senate and house members on the Human Services Committee are floating a proposal to delay action on November’s initiated measure approving medical cannabis in the state. The initiative, called Measure 5, passed with an overwhelming majority—64 to 36 percent in this glaringly red, “Deep North” state.
Advocates for medical pot are not happy. “The voters in every single district in our state approved passage of medical marijuana,” says Sheri Paulson, of Galesburg, ND, who suffers from multiple sclerosis.
Paulson and other proponents watched in amazement as the joint legislative committee this week entertained the idea of suspending action on Measure 5, also known as the North Dakota Compassionate Care Act. According to the Bismarck Tribune, the proposal, wrapped into Senate Bill 2154, would delay the Department of Health from issuing applications for medical marijuana dispensaries. Furthermore, the health department would be allowed to suspend the receiving of applications for medical cannabis as well as issuing certificates of registration. The suspension of responsibility would run through July 31, 2017, or until the state legislature passes a full medical cannabis regulations bill this session, whichever comes first.
A number of legislators expressed their concern. Senator Rich Wardner, a Republican fromDickinson, indicated the state needed more time to set the state on “solid ground” before rolling out a medical marijuana delivery system.“We understand that it takes time for each state to get a system in place,” Paulson says, “but the voters spoke pretty forcefully.”Based on the state’s constitution, Measure 5 became law 30 days after its passage on November 9.
Another medical cannabis proponent, Anita Morgan, 60, of Fargo, says she doesn’t understand why the legislators are pushing to delay. Other states, she says, have established protocols for medical marijuana. “Why can’t North Dakota borrow from them?” Morgan wonders. “If the state would just act in good faith, and work on implementation, we’d have patience with them,” she says. But Morgan is skeptical.
“What if they don’t appropriate the money for implementation of this new law this session? Maybe our legislators should have some empathy for the mother who sits up at night hour after hour with her child having seizure after seizure.”
“Legislators won’t be in session on July 31,” she adds. “The legislative session ends in late spring and our legislators won’t go back into session until 2019. What if their aim is ‘death by fiscal note?’” Morgan asks. “What if they don’t appropriate the money for implementation of this new law this session? Maybe our legislators should have some empathy for the mother who sits up at night hour after hour with her child having seizure after seizure.”
Morgan says at least one of the committee members indicated that “the voters didn’t know what they were voting on. That’s incredibly insulting,” Morgan says.
Says Paulson, “We did our work and we did it right. We educated the public about the benefits of medical marijuana and they voted to put the law into practice.” Choking back tears, Paulson, 49, adds that she’s a law-abiding citizen who has never even tried marijuana. “I want to do this legally. I need this. I’ve never broken a law in my life. I’m in pain, but I refuse to do this illegally.”
And Paulson is adamant that North Dakota’s legislators do what’s right. If they don’t, she says, a lot of people like her may just end up going underground to get the relief they so desperately seek.