The Forum took this week to publishing an editorial on all four initiated measures set to appear on North Dakota’s November 6th general election ballot. And while they got it right on Measure 1, they’re absolutely wrong on 2, 3, and 4. For our purposes here though, I want to specifically look at their comments regarding Measures 2 and 3.
As described by the Petition Title, Measure 2 seeks to:
“… amend Article II of the North Dakota Constitution to state that ‘only a citizen’ of the United States is a qualified elector, instead of the current provision that states ‘every citizen’ of the United States is a qualified elector. The measure also would state that only a qualified elector may vote in any general, special, or primary election for a federal, statewide, state legislative, district, county, township, city, or school district office or ballot measure.”
As Gary Emineth – who is Chairman of North Dakota Citizens for Voting – says, the current wording in our state constitution is one of ambiguity. This measure not only seeks to clarify that by clearly requiring that “only” U.S. citizens can vote, but it specifically lists those elections down to the local level.
One would think that such a change would be a no-brainer for North Dakotans, but apparently The Forum doesn’t. Not only do they question it, but they outright suggest a “No” vote on it:
“Measure 2 is a silly idea, utterly lacking in merit. It seeks to amend the North Dakota Constitution to specify that ‘only a citizen’ of the United States is a qualified voter. In fact, the North Dakota Constitution already defines a voter as a U.S. citizen. Nothing ambiguous about it. There’s no need to clutter the constitution with unneeded verbiage. Vote no on Measure 2.”
Their argument is stunning on two fronts. First, even if they believe the current wording is sufficient, what’s the problem with using the word “only” instead of “every”? Perhaps that’s answered by their second reason in advocating for a “No” vote when they refer to the measure as “unneeded verbiage”. This statement is very telling. Who in their right mind would oppose the clarity of defining that not only should our elections be restricted to “only” U.S. citizens, but what those elections are— down to the local level? That is, unless they think non-citizens should be voting in these elections. Kinda makes me wonder.
As if their position on Measure 2 wasn’t bad enough, we then get to Measure 3. According to The Forum:
“Measure 3 seeks to legalize recreational marijuana use. It’s a dope smoker’s pipe dream — and a nightmare for just about everyone else. Measure 3’s flaws are hard to catalog fully. If passed, North Dakota would have the nation’s most liberal marijuana law. It would create a Wild West for weed: marijuana could be grown anywhere, by anyone. It could be sold anywhere, by anyone.
“There would be no limits on the amount of marijuana a person could possess — and it could be smoked or used anywhere: schools, churches, public buildings, anywhere. Measure 3 would require the expungement of legal records involving marijuana-related convictions, a labor-intensive effort that would require hiring 124 temporary workers who would have to scramble to scrape 180,000 records within a 30-day deadline, at an estimated cost of $1.1 million. The total cost for state agencies and local governments of legalizing recreational marijuana: $6.6 million. More legal havoc: Any law that conflicts with the measure would be nullified and repealed. Resist your libertarian impulses and vote no on Measure 3.”
Wow. Where do we even begin? This is the problem with opponents to Measure 3. They know very well that fear campaigns against initiated measures work very well in North Dakota. Just ask proponents of a measure to Abolish Property Taxes in 2012 and those who advocated for the Human Life Amendment in 2014. Both came out with overwhelming support, but died horrible deaths at the polls after organized opposition struck fear into the hearts of voters. As the old saying goes, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”
The Forum’s position on Measure 3 is laced with examples of loaded language…
“… a nightmare…”
“… a Wild West for weed…”
“… smoked or used anywhere…”
“… legal hovoc…”
Yes, as I predicted in early September, they’d have us to believe that the sky is falling. Heck, I wonder if Colorado is still even on the map. I haven’t been there in a while. Surely they would have imploded by now if these types of things are true.
I can’t help but chuckle at this idea of weed being “smoked or used anywhere”. Schools, churches, and public buildings would all become safe spaces for marijuana users? Really? Last I checked, churches were private property and people are therefore subject to the rules of said churches. This is nothing short of a bald-faced lie by The Forum. Proponents of the measure from Legalize ND have repeatedly stated that existing smoking bans will still apply, because the measure specifically illustrates what is meant/intended by “marijuana related activity”— and smoking in public places is not one of them.
But let’s pretend for a moment that this fearmongering is true. I’ll remind you that the North Dakota State Legislature is set to convene in January of 2019— less than two months after the general election. If there were fixes or clarity needed, how long do you suppose it would take to make them? If it were all really that serious — and I don’t believe that it is — it wouldn’t take them long at all.
As to their not-so-scary numbers regarding the expungement of records, this too is laughable. To borrow a phrase from their justification for supporting Measure 4, the costs associated with expunging records related to marijuana convictions is “mighty small potatoes” in comparison to the continued costs associated with arresting, prosecuting, and housing non-violent marijuana offenders.
The issue at hand with Measure 3 is about personal liberty and whether we believe that people should continue to be treated as criminals for using marijuana. Then there’s the fact that the state’s implementation of Medical Marijuana has been nothing short of unacceptable. If the nearly 65% of voters who approved of Medical Marijuana in 2016 really support that idea, they should vote for Measure 3 and be done with it. The message to the Legislature would be loud and clear.
And for those concerned about the taxing aspect of this, businesses selling marijuana-related products will still have to collect sales tax on those purchases as well. So, local and state governments will benefit financially too.
Though I disagree with The Forum on their stance regarding Measure 4, at least they had an argument that wasn’t completely off the rails. But when it comes to Measures 2 and 3, their arguments are — to again borrow from their own wording — silly. My hope is that North Dakotans will recognize this and reject them as such by voting “Yes” on November 6th.