BISMARCK, N.D. (KXNET) — Heading into November, North Dakotans will decide if adults can use marijuana recreationally. 

There are currently 19 states where it is legal, and of those 19 states, 12 and D.C. had legalized marijuana through the ballot measure process. 

KX News’ Josh Meny sat down with David Owen the manager of the pro-marijuana campaign, New Approach North Dakota.

When it comes to marijuana, there are 50 Different laws in 50 different states. The first thing that it would impact the most – is law enforcement. We put a lot of resources into marijuana prosecution including police, the prison system, and courts. How would legalizing recreational marijuana change that?

“So you know, just today, I saw an article in the paper. So there are 250 untested rape kits right here in North Dakota 250 people waiting for justice can’t get it because the law enforcement does not have the resources to deal with this problem. And so by legalizing marijuana, we take law enforcement officers who are focusing on marijuana arrests and we move them to bigger priorities. And put that into perspective, we arrest second most in the nation per capita for marijuana. So, we’re putting a lot of resources towards marijuana, which could be going towards things like testing those rape kits, and going after the bigger problems in society,” said New Approach ND Campaign Manager David Owen.

I’ve talked to Dem-NPL candidate for Attorney General Tim Lamb, and he has said that legalizing marijuana would reduce 3,500 prosecutions. $5,000 per prosecution. That’s a lot of tax money that we’re saving.

“Yeah, legalizing marijuana is a huge savings for taxpayers, not just on the prosecution side, but also the arrest and imprisonment side. If we imprison a person for a year in the state of North Dakota, that’s roughly $40,000, anywhere from 40 to 43. It depends on the year. And that’s a lot of money. Put it in perspective, full tuition at UND for four years is $40,000. So, every person we’re putting away for marijuana is the equivalent of an entire four-year scholarship for someone who’s going to college. It’s a ton of taxpayer dollars. And again, because we’re number two in the nation for those arrests per capita, we put a lot of resources towards this that don’t need to be going there,” explained Owen.

On the other side of the argument, Attorney General Drew Wrigley has characterized the legalization of marijuana, utilizing it, as a dream killer. In his words. He’s concerned about the health matters of using marijuana. What do you say to the argument that marijuana is potentially a gateway drug to more dangerous narcotics?

“So, I really want to focus on a different word there, like you said, the health and we have medical marijuana in the state. But there are tons of people, veterans with PTSD, cancer patients who are struggling every single day and can’t get their proven tested medicine. So that to me is the bigger health question when it comes to legalizing marijuana is how do we get all these people who have been left behind and lost from the medical system, their marijuana, their medical marijuana that they should have had since 2016. And I’ve come to the conclusion the only way to do that is to legalize recreational marijuana. So that’s my aspect on the health side of it. As for the gateway drug side, study after study shows that states with legal marijuana show lower opioid overdose deaths and lower opioid abuse. So when we talk about health first off these people who are waiting and dying, as they can’t get their medical cards. Number one most important thing to me on the health side number two, it does actually lower than opioid abuse and overdose rates,” said Owen.

North Dakota has voted multiple times to legalize recreational marijuana, and medical marijuana is legal. 

An opposition group named Healthy and Productive North Dakota has formed.

KX News is reaching out to the group for an interview.