United States: RE[e]FERENDUMS: 2016 Marijuana State Ballot Initiatives, Part 2

As the race to the Presidential Election draws near, The Blunt Truth turns its attention to a second round of ballot measures in North Dakota and Maine, which seek to expand both medical and recreational marijuana use.

NORTH DAKOTA: The North Dakota Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative, also known as Initiated Statutory Measure 5 and the North Dakota Compassionate Care Act, reaches the legislature after a similar measure failed to reach the ballot in 2012, due to the presence of thousands of fraudulent signatures thereon.

The measure would allow patients with various medical ailments, including cancer, HIV, and AIDS, to acquire a "usable amount" of medical marijuana, not to exceed three ounces in weight, for use in treating their illnesses.  "Usable" medical marijuana would be in the form of dried leaves and flowers, and mixtures of such parts, including but not limited to tinctures, ointments, and other preparations.

Even if a patient's ailment is not listed as a qualifying ailment in the measure, the patient may petition the North Dakota Department of Health to add the ailment to the list.

Each patient may also have a designated caregiver, and a caregiver may care for up to five patients.  Patients and their designated caregivers would have to apply for  identification cards through the state of North Dakota, and would have to furnish certain documentation  in order to qualify for such a card.  Documentation would include evidence of the patient's medical diagnos(es).

A major opponent of this measure is the North Dakota Medical Association, which has stated that the measure would be "very difficult to implement in a safe and cost-effective manner."  The Association has also referenced the lack of approval of medicinal marijuana by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), suggesting that the drug has not been appropriately tested for medicinal use.

The most recent poll assessing support of the measure was conducted two years ago by the University of North Dakota College of Business and Public Administration, and found that 47 percent of participants supported the legalization of medical marijuana in the state.  Forty-one percent were opposed, and nine percent were neutral.  While North Dakota is a fairly conservative state, Rilie Ray Morgan, sponsor of the measure shared that he believed most voters would view legalized medical marijuana as an "alternative to prescription drugs that we know are harmful."

MAINE: Question 1 allows individuals over the age of 21 to use, posses, transport, transfer, or furnish 2.5 ounces of marijuana or 6 immature plants or seedlings.  According to Question 1, the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry would become the state licensing authority, and there would be a 10% sales tax on retail marijuana and retail marijuana products.

On March 2, 2016, Secretary of State, Matt Dunlap, determined that there were not enough "valid" signatures to qualify Question 1 for the ballot.  On March 10, 2016, various supporters of Question 1 filed a lawsuit in Kennebec County Superior Court to overturn Mr. Dunlap's decision that the signatures in support of the bill were invalid.  On April 8, 2016, the court overturned the Secretary of State's decision to disqualify Question 1 from the ballot holding that Mr. Dunlap "committed an error of law." The court ordered the Secretary of State to re-review the signatures, but cautioned that this review must be a "mere formality."  Mr. Dunlap indicated that he would not appeal the court's decision, and on April 27, 2016, he announced that there were enough valid signature to qualify Question 1 for the ballot.

As of September 30, 2016, the "Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol" raised $2,120,536.40 in support of Question 1, meanwhile, those opposed to Question 1 have only raised a combined $9,335.94.  According to a statewide survey commissioned by the Portland Herald Press, Question 1 enjoys 53% majority support in the face of 38% opposition.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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Samuel Sverdlov
 
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