Shaw: Legalize pot in North Dakota

InForum columnist Jim Shaw argues it's high time for North Dakota to legalize marijuana. "I have never smoked marijuana, and don’t encourage it," Shaw writes. "However, the time has come for North Dakota, like 19 other states and Washington, D.C. to legalize it, regulate it and bring in millions of dollars in taxes."

Jim Shaw
Jim Shaw
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It’s way past time to make recreational marijuana legal in North Dakota. Voters in the state should vote yes on the November ballot measure to do so.

I’ve never understood why a person sitting in their home smoking a joint should be charged with a crime. How is that any different than drinking a beer at home? It’s not. In fact, alcohol is much more dangerous. Alcohol can damage the brain and the liver. The CDC says excessive alcohol consumption led to 140,000 deaths per year from 2015 to 2019. Nobody has ever died from a pot overdose.

We also know that alcohol can make people more violent, while marijuana often makes people more relaxed. Yes, there are downsides to taking marijuana, but if you believe in legalized alcohol, then you should support legalized pot.

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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.

The North Dakota measure is the most conservative in the country. It’s also much more tightly written than the one on the state ballot in 2018, which was too loose. This measure is virtually the same as the bill that was passed by the Republican-dominated North Dakota House last year.

What’s new and improved this time around are tight limits on how much you can possess, how much you can grow, where you can smoke it and having the marijuana tested. Those common-sense provisions mean you can only possess a small amount, can only grow three plants at home, can only use it in private places and the state will test the marijuana to make sure the proper chemicals are in it. All great ideas.


Another great idea is the state would limit the number of places that could legally sell or grow marijuana. There would be a maximum of 18 licensed dispensaries in North Dakota, and only seven licensed places that could grow it. Also, just like alcohol, you would have to be at least 21 to legally consume it and you couldn’t legally drive while under the influence of pot.

There are also several practical advantages to this measure. First, there are many people in this state with chronic pain who can’t get medical marijuana. That’s because there are many doctors in the state who don’t believe in medical marijuana, and won’t approve a medical marijuana card for their patients. If this measure passes, those patients won’t need a card.

Second, think of all the time local law enforcement wastes on marijuana cases. With legalized marijuana, they wouldn’t have to spend their time on victimless marijuana cases, and could devote more time to serious crimes.

This leads me to my third point. Too many people have needlessly had their lives ruined because they were arrested for simply smoking marijuana. They can’t get jobs, apartments or loans. That injustice would change.

I have never smoked marijuana, and don’t encourage it. However, the time has come for North Dakota, like 19 other states and Washington, D.C. to legalize it, regulate it and bring in millions of dollars in taxes.

Shaw is a former WDAY TV reporter and former KVRR TV news director.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.

"Does North Dakota really want women with complicated pregnancies to suffer? Does North Dakota really want a critical shortage of qualified obstetricians and to imprison doctors?" columnist Jim Shaw asks. "The legislature must act."

Opinion by Jim Shaw
InForum columnist Jim Shaw is a former WDAY TV reporter and former KVRR TV news director.
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