Plain Talk: Former California cop says North Dakota's marijuana ballot measure won't make our state like hers

Would legalization of marijuana make North Dakota like California? Not so says Diane Goldstein, a 21-year veteran cop, now retired, who worked the streets in California during legalization.

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Minot, N.D. — A national anti-marijuana group that is organizing the opposition to Measure 2, which, if passed by North Dakota voters, would legalize recreational marijuana, has been touting support from several law enforcement groups.

These organizations say legalizing marijuana will hurt public safety. There will be more crime. More inebriated driving.

“When you look at other states with legal recreational marijuana it’s easy to see the detrimental impacts it has caused. Legalized marijuana increases crime, increases DUIs, and increases illegal drug trafficking of harder drugs,” Burleigh County Sherriff Kelly Leben has said . “In fact, with more users, illegal sales increase, not decrease. 80% of California marijuana sales are on the black market.”

But that's not so says Diane Goldstein. She's a 21-year veteran of the Redondo Beach Police Department who retired as a lieutenant, and has spent her post-law enforcement career researching drug policy and advocating for reforms as a part of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership.

LEAP was founded in 2002 by a coalition of five law enforcement officers. Goldstein joined the group in 2010.


She joined this episode of Plain Talk, along with pro-Measure 2 campaigner and Fargo-based defense attorney Mark Friese, to rebut the argument coming from some in North Dakota law enforcement.

Goldstein says it's a mistake to compare North Dakota's measure to what happened in California, which decided to open the legal marijuana market up with little in the way of regulation. She said North Dakota's measure contains prudent protections that California didn't contemplate when that state first legalized marijuana more than two decades ago.

Both Friese and Goldstein also pointed out that legalizing marijuana isn't some social experiment anymore. Many states have legalized marijuana now, and have lived with legalization for years, and the evidence shows little in the way of a crime surge.

That's not to say that legalizing marijuana in North Dakota will be a panacea for public safety, Goldstein warned. "We'll never get rid of the black market," she said. But, legalization can mitigate the public safety threat that comes from the marijuana black market and the criminal gangs who serve it.

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Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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