Bills that reach the North Dakota Legislature. Measures that reach the state’s voters. They may be well-intentioned, but are they good enough to be enacted into law?
If they’re approved, how are they enforced? It’s more challenging than one may think.
Politicians weighed in on this dilemma during “Coffee with the Legislators,” held Saturday, Feb. 18 in Wahpeton. Attending, commenting and listening to Twin Towns Area residents were Sen. Larry Luick, R-District 25, Rep. Cindy Schreiber Beck, R-District 25, and Rep. Alisa Mitskog, D-District 25.
“I’ll give two examples: both ‘Marsy’s Law’ and medical marijuana,” Luick said.
North Dakota’s proposed medical marijuana bill, Luick continued, was conjured up from information from several states that already have medical marijuana laws. All those pieces put together have created a mismatch of a bill, which will also require the state Department of Health to hire 17 additional full-time employees just to handle the situation.
Last November, Initiated Statutory Measure No. 5, proposed to allow North Dakota residents suffering from certain qualifying conditions to use medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it, passed with nearly 64 percent of favorable votes. Department of Health personnel, Luick said, are pulling their hair out over the difficulties in facilitating this use.
“We know the purpose of this bill was not for medical marijuana purposes, it was for recreational use,” Luick said.
Saying it would be disastrous for the Legislature to continue keeping in provisions that allow medical marijuana to be smoked, Luick commented on THC. The concentration of THC, a mind-altering chemical, has grown in marijuana since Luick was a student and continues to do so, he said. That’s concerning when he considers not only secondhand smoke, but how it may affect young children of medical marijuana users.
“We have to get something in place,” Mitskog responded. “And for us to rein in and really vet the merits of medical marijuana, I don’t know where we can say this is more dangerous than the opioids and the narcotics that are prescribed every day to patients in our state.”
According to Mitskog, Democratic caucuses in the legislature have drafted solutions to the implementation issue. She is optimistic they will have bipartisan support.
When it comes to Marsy’s Law, Luick said if everyone in North Dakota knew what is in the depths of that legislation, nobody would have voted for it.
”That’s how badly written that law is,” he said.
Enforcement of the already two-month old Marsy’s Law, which has a stated goal of protecting victims’ rights, is going to be a nightmare, according to Luick.
“Because the law is essentially vague when declaring a victim, now prosecutors have to assume everyone is a victim and afford them the rights and protections under Marsy’s Law,” the News-Monitor reported in an in-depth series on the new law. “As such, the justice process will slow remarkably … a key point of law is that victims are to be included in the judicial process.”
Sen. Jim Dotzenrod, D-District 26, was unable to attend the Wahpeton forum as he was speaking at a similar event in Lisbon, North Dakota.
A third and final “Coffee with the Legislators” will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, March 18. Because North Dakota State College of Science will be on spring break during that time, the location is pending. It will be published in the Daily News, according to Wanda Seliski, executive vice president of the Wahpeton Breckenridge Area Chamber of Commerce.