The Judiciary Committee has been tasked with studying “the implications of the potential adoption of an initiated measure allowing the use of recreational marijuana. The study must consider the potential benefits and detriments of legalizing recreational marijuana.” The study’s original intent was for the legislature to be prepared if a potential ballot measure was approved by the public in November 2020. A wise move considering the debacle that ensued following the passage of medical marijuana in ND.
However, the approach of the committee’s hearings appears to be focused on “detriments” of legalizing recreational marijuana according to some backers of the measure. It makes one question if that is by design from Chairman Lawrence Klemin (R – District 47). For example, just last week, at a committee hearing Workforce Safety and Insurance of North Dakota (WSI) appeared to use a scare tactic against recreational marijuana. To paraphrase, if pot is legalized, we’d all potentially pay more due to an increase in WSI claims.
As reported on KFGO.com, “Workforce Safety and Insurance agency attorney Jodi Bjornson says someone under the influence of marijuana who is hurt on the job would not be compensated presently. But she says that could change if the drug is made legal for recreational use – unless lawmakers create rules to forbid it.”
In the debate over legalizing marijuana, a lot of people like to compare how pot and alcohol are publicly treated. A quick analysis of how WSI “compensates” someone injured on the job if they are injured under the influence of alcohol shows they wouldn’t be compensated. ND Century Code, 65-01-02(11)(b)(3).
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There are legitimate questions as to how to test and measure when someone would be “intoxicated” or under the influence of marijuana. Looking objectively to other states who have gone down this path is fair. However, if the committee hearings are politically orchestrated to get the potential opposition to recreational marijuana – fair or not – on the official record of ND for the pending measure then there is a problem.
Politicians have been vocal on measures for a long time. Often it is scowled at by the general public. Think, for example, legislative hostility to ethics and an independent commission to oversee it. In this case, subtly using committee hearings to seemingly undermine a potential measure is also something that should garner the attention of the general public.
It is clear the majority in the Legislature doesn’t want to see recreational marijuana in ND. Heck, they didn’t want medical marijuana. Perhaps a majority of North Dakotans also don’t want to see it legal to be used recreational. We will soon find out at the ballot. The campaign appears to be well underway in the legislative body.