With medical cannabis legal in 23 states and the District of Columbia, solid “red-state” North Dakota may follow the nationwide trend that is spreading to even the most conservative states in the nation — remarkably, Utah, one of the most socially conservative states in the country is one of the most recent “red-states” to consider legalizing medical cannabis.
According to a Nov. 30 news release from North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger’s office, backers of the North Dakota Committee for Medical Marijuana-sponsored North Dakota Compassionate Care Act, have received the green light to start collecting signatures to put the proposed medical marijuana initiative on next year’s Nov. 8 general election ballot.
Secretary of State Al Jaeger previously rejected the petition due to what he attributed to a lack of information required by state law and initially was unsure whether or not his office would have sufficient time to review the petition: “With its length, whether we’ll be able to get it by the earliest date I don’t know,” Jaeger said. “This is by far the longest that I’ve ever seen.” Jaeger noted that petitions are generally no longer than a few pages.
If passed, the North Dakota Compassionate Care Act, will legally enable state residents to possess up to 3 ounces of medical marijuana, purchase medical marijuana from state-approved and licensed dispensaries, and grow small amounts in their residence.
Leading the campaign to legalize medical cannabis in the state is Rilie Ray Morgan, a financial planner and advisor from Fargo. Morgan is chairman of the 27-person group, North Dakota Committee for Medical Marijuana. Morgan, who suffers from chronic back pain, claims that while he has never used cannabis for pain relief, given cannabis’ demonstrated effectiveness as a non-narcotic analgesic, he wants the option of using cannabis as treatment to relieve his ongoing back pain.
To lessen the stigma cannabis still carries with some residents of North Dakota, Rilie Ray Morgan and his group are taking a strategic communications approach to gaining widespread support, calling the measure the “North Dakota Compassionate Care Act” and referring to dispensaries as “compassionate care centers”. According to Ray:
We want to soften [medical cannabis] and eliminate any negative connotations.
In order to get the measure on next year’s ballot, supporters will need to collect at least 13,542 signatures from residents 120 days prior to the 2016 election. As more peer-reviewed research continues to be published, and perhaps more important, compelling anecdotal stories of cannabis’ effectiveness in treating a variety of ailments and positively impacting the lives of patients circulate in both traditional and social media, securing the required number of signatures should not be a difficult task.
Medical cannabis laws and enforcement vary significantly from state to state, with states such as California known for being lenient, allowing potential patients to easily find a doctor to write a recommendation on the spot with little to no verification of medical history, while other states, such as Minnesota have approved few medical conditions that qualify patients for cannabis treatment. Minnesota even prohibits home cultivation and smoking of cannabis, requiring patients to use extracts. Should the measure pass, North Dakota’s application of the law will likely find a middle ground.
To review the specific language and learn more about the initiative, visit North Dakota Compassionate Care. If you want to take an active role in support of the initiative, visit the North Dakotans for Compassionate Care Facebook page.
Additional resources are available below:
North Dakota Medical Marijuana Petition Approval
North Dakota Medical Marijuana Petition
History of Cannabis in North Dakota