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Heitkamp, Cramer reveal positions on North Dakota ballot measures

North Dakota Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp prepares to vote at the Morton County Courthouse in Mandan with her husband, Dr. Darwin Lange, Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2018. Mike McCleary / Bismarck Tribune

BISMARCK - The candidates in North Dakota's Senate race said Wednesday, Oct. 31, that they both oppose the ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana in the state, but they disagreed on a proposal to add anti-corruption language to the state's constitution.

After casting a ballot in Mandan Wednesday morning, Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp said she voted against the "overly broad" marijuana legalization measure, and her Republican opponent Rep. Kevin Cramer also opposes the idea. But while Heitkamp voted in favor of the anti-corruption constitutional amendment, Cramer called it "unnecessary."

Heitkamp voted early at the Morton County Courthouse, and Cramer plans to vote on Election Day.

Heitkamp, a former North Dakota attorney general, supports decriminalizing marijuana but said Measure 3 would be "problematic" for law enforcement and schools.

The proposal would amend state law to legalize "non-violent marijuana related activity" for those over 21, except for selling to minors, and it wouldn't impose limits on the amount somebody could possess or grow. It would also create a process for expunging records of those previously convicted of a crime that's legalized by the measure.

Heitkamp chastised the Legislature for acting "irresponsibly" on the medical marijuana measure and said she "felt like you couldn't really trust them to deal with this one." Voters passed the medical marijuana measure in 2016 but patients are still waiting for the product.

"There's a lot of frustration. I think that's why you see this measure on the ballot," she told a gaggle of reporters.

Cramer said he doesn't support marijuana legalization, but he said Congress should deal with the issue.

"This is a direction people want to go, this is the direction the culture is going," he said. "It would be far better to have some sort of an umbrella regulatory regime."

On Measure 1, Heitkamp said "it's time that we have an ethics priority in North Dakota." The measure would establish an ethics commission that could investigate malfeasance and would prevent lobbyists from giving gifts to public officials, among other changes.

Organizations ranging from the Greater North Dakota Chamber to the American Civil Liberties Union have opposed the measure, warning it would require the financial disclosure of the most minimal of political activity and infringe on constitutional rights.

"I understand the concerns that some organizations have, but I don't share those concerns with Measure 1," Heitkamp said.

Cramer said he'll vote against the measure because the state already has "bright sunshine laws," an "inquisitive media" and "savvy voters."

"I don't think another layer of bureaucracy built by out-of-state money makes a lot of sense," he said.

The candidates themselves would not be subject to requirements of Measure 1 and would instead adhere to federal guidelines, said the measure's top backer Dina Butcher.

Heitkamp and Cramer both support Measure 2 to tweak the state constitution to clarify that only U.S. citizens can vote in North Dakota elections. She also voted for Measure 4, which would provide free red personalized vehicle plates to volunteer emergency responders, but Cramer was undecided on that proposal.

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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