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Port: Don't buy into the impending prohibitionist scare campaign against legalizing marijuana

Port writes: Marijuana is already everywhere. It's in your city. It's in your neighborhood. People you know are already using it. It's time to end the costly, pointless charade of trying to prohibit it.

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Marijuana on sale
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MINOT, N.D. — On the ballot, this November, is a measure that, if approved by voters, would legalize recreational marijuana in North Dakota under a regime of exacting regulations.

News this week is that a coalition has formed to formally oppose the measure. Expect to be soon buried under a deluge of sinister, blood-curdling messaging about pot.

Much of it will be a repeat of the scary campfire stories we heard against the legalization of medical marijuana in our state, which voters approved, by a wide margin , in 2016.

We'll hear about crime and addiction. Headaches from legalization in other states will be cherry-picked and exaggerated. The term "gateway drug" will be thrown around promiscuously.

But here's what the " Reefer Madness" crowd won't tell you: The use of marijuana for recreational purposes is already endemic in our state.

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Everyone who wants weed is getting weed.

There are people dealing marijuana in pretty much every one of our communities.

You probably know people — from business professionals to educators to lawyers — who are regularly using marijuana responsibly in the same way others crack a beer or pour a glass of wine.

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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

The only thing our state's status quo prohibition of recreational marijuana is actually prohibiting is our ability to tax and regulate this commerce and consumption and deal forthrightly with the deleterious social impacts.

Because there are some. The pro-pot crowd doesn't like to talk about them — they aren't exactly helpful to the case for legalization — but it's simply reality.

While most people who use marijuana do so responsibly, there are some who don't.

Still, dwelling on this as an argument against legalization ignores the fact that everyone in North Dakota who wants to use marijuana is doing so. Prohibition isn't stopping anything. Legalization would make it easier to deal with those social impacts out in the light of day.

Many pot users will still behave irresponsibly, but perhaps more of them will be willing to seek out help when they know that their use of the drug isn't any more illegal than drinking a Budweiser.

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Let's be clear: There will be some challenges attendant to legalization. It's a big shift, legally and culturally, and it would be naive to say there won't be any speed bumps.

But speed bumps aren't a convincing argument against the good of legalization.

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Voting for this ballot measure means your neighbor won't be a criminal anymore because she likes to smoke a joint on the back deck after a long work week.

It would mean new opportunities for entrepreneurs and business owners to serve an emerging white market for weed.

It means the millions upon millions in marijuana sales that happen in our state every year can be taxed, creating a significant new revenue stream for the public good.

And, perhaps most importantly, it will align our law with reality. Because, again, marijuana is already everywhere. It's in your city. It's in your neighborhood. People you know are already using it.

It's time to end the costly, pointless charade of trying to prohibit it.

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 rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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