The issue of legalizing marijuana in North Dakota for those 21-years old and older has become a hot button topic. That’s no surprise of course. Back in July, when Legalize ND turned in nearly 19,000 signatures to put the issue to a vote of the people this coming November, I wrote:
“I think it’s safe to say that the opposition to recreational marijuana will now begin to surface in a way that we’ve not yet seen. This will especially be true once Al Jaeger verifies there’s an adequate amount of signatures.”
As expected, once our Secretary of State officially approved the measure for November’s ballot, opponents to the mere idea of legalization began to mobilize.
Perhaps the biggest shot fired, as the ongoing debate has heated up, came in the form of a scare tactic— mainly, that passage of Measure 3 would legalize driving while high. Within days, the fearmongering had spread across the state. Some voters who had been on the “Yes” side – or were at least leaning that way – were suddenly swayed otherwise. I mean, after all, who thinks legalizing stoned driving is a good idea? Well, the answer to that question is almost nobody— including the folks at Legalize ND. Furthermore, an analysis of the measure itself proves that when read in context with current law and the stated intent of the sponsoring committee, the argument that stoned driving would become legal quickly falls apart. I explained this in an article last month.
Not to be deterred though, the North Dakota Peace Officers Association passed a resolution last month opposing Measure 3. The response to the news of this was actually quite amusing. Why? Because it wasn’t surprising to anybody— from either side of the debate. It was expected.
The most recent move to sink the effort to legalize recreational marijuana comes in the form of a coalition that calls themselves “North Dakotans Against the Legalization of Recreational Marijuana”. They are led by 76-year old former North Dakota Attorney General (1981-1984) and District Court Judge Bob Wefald. According to Wefald, the group will spend whatever it takes to defeat Measure 3. That’s not good news for Legalize ND, who are a grassroots organization with little funding.
To some degree, I think many on the side of the opposition expected the idea of total legalization to fizzle out. At the very least, it seems they never expected it to have the votes to pass. Which is odd when we consider the fact that Medical Marijuana passed in 2016 with nearly 64% of the vote. But as time has went on, it became apparent that not only does total legalization have a chance, but online polling showed overwhelming support— for whatever online polling is worth. Put this together with the reality that it would be on the ballot and the opposition appears to have had no choice but to do something in terms of officially organizing against it.
With just over 58 days to the general election, we can expect North Dakotans Against the Legalization of Recreational Marijuana to pull out all of the old arguments that have been kicked around for years. Heck, they’ve even doubled down on the silly idea that it would be legal to drive while high. At this point in the political game, facts don’t matter to some people— winning does. I hope Legalize ND realizes that. Because if they don’t, they will lose.
So, how can Legalize ND and their supporters pull off a victory in November against an opponent who’s apparently willing to spend whatever they have to in order to defeat Measure 3? That’s a big question. And I don’t believe there’s just one simple answer. Having said that, I do know this… Those who support total legalization can’t play the political game like Legalize ND has the ball and a lead in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. No, the game needs to be played like it’s the final moments, we’re behind, and every play matters. Not only that, but every player matters.
When polling was initially conducted concerning an initiated measure to abolish property taxes in 2012, it had overwhelming support. In 2014, an initiated measure to protect the “right to life of every human being at any stage of development” was up 17 points in the polls with just a month to election day. Both were soundly defeated. Measure 2 – the property tax measure – went down in flames with just over 23% of the vote. Measure 1 – the human life amendment – suffered a loss with just under 36% in favor of it.
What did the property tax and life amendment have in common? Both suffered an excruciating amount of scare tactics leading up to the general election. Both faced opposition that was well-funded and unafraid to strike fear into the hearts of North Dakotans in order to win. Will we see the same thing play out with the measure to legalize recreational marijuana?
The one thing Legalize ND has in their favor is what’s turned out to be delay after delay with implementation of Medical Marijuana. What message will it send to the legislature and Bismarck’s bureaucrats if the people respond to delays with Medical Marijuana by voting down legalization of recreational? I’d suggest not a good one. If voters understand this, it will bode well for Legalize ND and significantly contribute to passage of Measure 3.
Between now and November 6th, Chicken Little will lead a campaign of fear to the people of North Dakota in opposition to legalizing recreational marijuana. How Legalize ND and those who support Measure 3 respond may well determine whether voters are led to believe the sky is falling or not.