North Dakota doctors’ group comes out against pot legalization, health effects disputed

The North Dakota Medical Association joined organizations representing police, farmers and religious interests in opposing Measure 2, which would legalize recreational marijuana for adults 21 and up.

North Dakota would join 19 states, including Montana, in having legalized recreational pot if voters approve Measure 2 in November.
Illustration by Troy Becker / The Forum

BISMARCK — A trade group for North Dakota doctors has contended that a measure to legalize recreational marijuana would negatively impact health in the state. Legalization proponents dispute some of the medical group’s claims and accuse the doctors of fear-mongering.

This week, the North Dakota Medical Association joined organizations representing police, farmers and religious interests in opposing Measure 2, which would legalize the possession and purchase of small amounts of marijuana for adults 21 and older.

“In today’s society — when our government continues to increase the nation’s investment (in) treating drug addiction — it seems counterintuitive to legalize yet another addictive recreational drug,” said a Monday, Oct. 31, news release from the medical group.

The doctors’ group cited a series of health studies to assert that:

Dr. Josh Ranum, an internal medicine specialist in Hettinger, is the medical association’s president.
Dave Owen, chairman of the measure group New Approach North Dakota, said the medical association is engaging in “fear tactics” to sway voters against legalization. Owen said his campaign is evidence-based and some of the points made by his opponents are not supported by fact.


Owen cited federal data and a recent study that show marijuana use has declined nationally among teenagers in recent years. He also pointed to several surveys and studies that found marijuana use generally does not increase among minors after recreational pot is legalized in a state.

A separate 2018 study found legalization had no discernible causal effect on increased traffic deaths in Colorado or Washington, the first two states to legalize recreational marijuana.

Owen noted that his group is not arguing that marijuana use is free of health risks, but he said keeping the drug illegal deprives North Dakota of tax revenue and regulatory control over pot sales and use.

“Like alcohol and other legal substances used by adults, there are risks,” Owen said. “Our position is that people will continue to use marijuana in North Dakota whether it is legal or not.”

Dave Owen, chairman of marijuana legalization group New Approach North Dakota, stands in front of 31 boxes containing signed petitions on July 11, 2022.
Jeremy Turley / Forum News Service

To read Forum News Service’s preview of Measure 2, go to

Mail-in and early voting is already underway in North Dakota. Election Day is Nov. 8. Go to for more information about voting.

Jeremy Turley is a Bismarck-based reporter for Forum News Service, which provides news coverage to publications owned by Forum Communications Company.
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