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Dickinson leaders voice concerns over Measure 3's wording

STOCK ART: the cannabis leaf and judge gavel

As North Dakota inches toward possibly legalizing recreational marijuana, Dickinson leaders are urging a cautious approach on the wording of the ballot measure.

The measure amends current state laws by legalizing "non-violent marijuana related activity" for those over 21, as well as creating a process for expunging records of those previously convicted of a crime legalized by the proposed measure.

Dickinson Sheriff Terry Oestreich expressed concerns about the legal concerns raised with Measure 3's ambiguous and open verbiage.

Oestreich believes that Measure 3 fails to expressly detail critical elements of enforcement, such as where or how much marijuana people could grow, sell or possess; where marijuana could be consumed; and enforcement of DUI laws for drivers impaired by marijuana on Stark County roadways.

"We work for the voters and support any decision they reach, but here are the concerns with that legislation, as it is written, that we have," Oestreich said. "The measure says that in the event the existence of any language in the North Dakota Century Code conflicts with the new measure, those sections of the century code are hereby nullified and repealed. Then you have another section of the measure which reads that no person over the age of 21 shall be prosecuted in any court, for any non-violent marijuana related activity. So essentially we can't arrest someone for driving under the influence of marijuana or legally zone marijuana—both of which are huge concerns for our residents."

Tom Henning, state's attorney for Stark County, said the expunging of records issue would be a labor-intensive process and difficult, if not impossible, to complete.

"So many various agencies and systems are intertwined in the records process that expunging a record from one system wouldn't necessarily expunge the record in its entirety," Henning said. "It would require a lot of cross agency work and even then, I don't know how we'd do this."

Henning also expressed his office's concern with Measure 3 amending the state century code to remove marijuana and similar substances from the list of Schedule I controlled substances, despite their federal ban.

Last month, the North Dakota Peace Officers Association approved a resolution against the measure, citing likely risks to residents and encouraging North Dakotans to examine the measure thoroughly before voting "no" in November.

North Dakota voters legalized medicinal marijuana two years ago following amendments made by legislators to shore up legal concerns arising from the wording of the medical marijuana bill. Currently, expectations from the state have medical marijuana dispensaries scheduled for operation by the summer of next year.

Measure 3 garnered much of its current support following frustrations with the delayed roll-out of the medical marijuana program and grew from a grassroots movement into a full blown lobby.

Medical professionals have also weighed in on the measure. Studies compiled by the American Association of Medical Assistants found potential for increases in automobile deaths and emergency room visits were a direct result of impaired drivers on the road.

"The number of teenagers sent to emergency rooms more than quadrupled after marijuana was legalized in Colorado," The study said. "Our concerns are with a federal survey published late last year finding that 6 percent of high school seniors are using marijuana daily, which could see our emergency room visits increase greatly."

Dickinson Mayor Scott Decker expressed some of the concerns related to him regarding the current wording of the measure, but wanted to read the text fully before issuing a official statement on the matter.

"I do have some concerns about the expungement of criminal records, especially with the timeframe we're considering," Decker said. "I have some concerns with the problematic nature of DUI's as the bill is currently written, based on what I've been told by people in the know. Again, I would like to fully review the measure before issuing a full statement and plan to do so over the coming week."

Dickinson Police spokesperson, Capt. David Wilkie notified The Press that Chief Dassinger plans to issue a full statement on the matter in the coming days.

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