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Our view: Voters right to reject pot measure

North Dakota's conservatism not only showed at the top of the ticket during Tuesday's mid-term election, but it also was very apparent in the great margin by which a marijuana-related vote lost.

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North Dakota's conservatism not only showed at the top of the ticket during Tuesday's mid-term election, but it also was very apparent in the great margin by which a marijuana-related vote lost.

Measure 3 would have legalized recreational marijuana in North Dakota for people 21 and older, and also would have expunged past marijuana-related convictions. The measure was trounced, 59 percent to 41 percent. All told, there were 192,965 votes against the measure and 131,585 in favor of it. It passed in only four of the state's 53 counties and in two of those four, it was by the thinnest majority.

In Sioux County, 71 percent of voters said "yes" to legalized marijuana, while 58 percent of voters in Rolette County voted in favor. Benson County voters passed it, 51 percent to 49 percent. It was the same margin in Cass County - the state's largest - where 39,170 voters said "yes" and 37,985 said "no."

Here in Grand Forks County, the measure failed 53 percent to 47 percent - 14,812 votes against it and 12,976 votes in favor of it.

We were against it, both at the highest levels of our company (Forum Communications Co. endorsed a "no" vote) and at the Herald. We are slow to come around to the idea of recreational marijuana for various reasons, including that we believe it's a gateway product to other drugs, as well as a problem for law enforcement and the workplace.

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As far as we know, marijuana does not have defined standards for impairment - that's trouble for police officers as well as employers who must test for drugs in relation to workplace safety.

Worse, the measure presented to North Dakotans was unorganized. Therefore, we agree with former Attorney General Bob Wefald, who warned that the loosely worded measure could have created an environment of unrestricted use and laws regarding recreational marijuana. Prior to the election, he said that if passed, it would have been the "wild, wild west in North Dakota."

There were no limits on possession and no regulatory structure. Supporters said the idea was to get the measure passed and then let lawmakers work out the details. Again, that's too loose for our taste. In addition, recreational marijuana is against federal law.

So, it's good that it failed.

Meanwhile, are we crazy enough to believe recreational use of marijuana eventually won't be legalized in North Dakota? No, because trends show public sentiment about marijuana is changing. Earlier this year, organizers gathered 18,000 signatures - almost 5,000 more than necessary - to get the measure on the ballot. Polling earlier this year showed that 46 percent of North Dakotans supported Measure 3 - although in reality, that evidently wasn't the case.

Numerous other states allow it, although most are on the coasts. However, recreational pot is legal in Canada and Michigan voters approved it last week, showing it is creeping toward the center of the continent.

North Dakota voters were right to reject this measure, but it doesn't take a crystal ball to predict that it will come up again in the not-so-distant future.

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