Lawmakers Talk Strategy in Preparing to Study Recreational Marijuana

Local News

After sorting through medical marijuana law this session, lawmakers will be taking up recreational in the meantime.

KX News looked into why the Legislative Council will be studying what could change in the state if marijuana is completely legalized.

North Dakota won’t be the first state to study legalization.

A study from Colorado has been shared nationwide. They studied before and after legalization, which happened in 2012.

Their biggest findings: There were five percent fewer hospitalizations for chronic pain, but a five percent increase in alcohol abuse and overdoses.

North Dakota Legislators say they never got a chance to study medical marijuana before it was voted in a few years ago, making it that much more important to know what could happen with recreational.

Republican Senator Jerry Klein asks, “How will it affect the state? How will it affect it, will it be positive? Will we see economic opportunity or financial rewards? However, what are the detriments?”

Democratic Senator Joan Heckaman adds, “I just think there are so many unknowns right now, that I don’t know if we’re able to get our arms around it or our heads around it right now.”

Law enforcement, workers compensation, taxation, North Dakota’s youth: these are all factors that Senator Klein says could be affected by legalization.

He adds, “We’ve been battling behavioral health issues in the state. We’ve been battling addiction issues. Will this add another addiction issue to our state problem?”

The Fessenden Senator says that’s the question he wants answered.

As for chronic pain, Senator Heckaman says next session she’d like to have a few medical marijuana patients come in and testify, to see if it’s truly effective here in the state.

She explains, “If it’s really doing what everybody says it’s going to do, it’s beneficial, especially to the quality of life of people in North Dakota. However, mixing medical and recreational are two different things.”

In studying recreational marijuana, Senator Heckaman is most concerned with kids: what protections will be in place for kids.

Dates have not yet been set for the study. Legislative Counsel expects they’ll start up late this summer or early in the fall.

Senator Heckaman says if it passes as a measure, lawmakers have to be ready in the next session, to implement it. She says that was a big issue with medical. Supporters expected it to be ready to go in 30 days.

Senator Jerry Klein says they’ll be looking to other states, like Colorado, for some insight.

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