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Ballot Measure 3 includes an unusual provision that would automatically seal criminal records for marijuana offenses.
North Dakota voters favor a marijuana legalization ballot measure that would also seal the criminal records of people with past pot-related offenses, according to a new poll.
The poll found that 51 percent of likely voters surveyed say they would vote “yes” for Ballot Measure 3, while 36 percent are opposed to the measure and 13 percent are undecided. The poll of 412 likely voters was conducted using online interviews from Oct. 11-14.
Measure 3 would legalize recreational pot in North Dakota for people 21 and over. The initiative also calls for a process to automatically seal records for people with nonviolent marijuana convictions.
The ballot measure has elicited pushback from law enforcement and business groups, including the North Dakota Peace Officers Association and the Greater North Dakota Chamber.
“It would make North Dakota the most liberal, ‘Wild West’ state in the nation for regulation of recreational marijuana,” Bob Wefald, a former state attorney general, who chairs North Dakotans Against the Legalization of Recreational Marijuana, said in a recent statement.
Another argument against the measure is that its provisions calling for the expungement of legal records would saddle the state with heavy administrative burdens and new costs.
Fargo Police Chief David Todd has called the proposal "a large-scale experiment with public health and safety” and said he would have rather seen marijuana legalization dealt with as a bill in the state Legislature, according to the news publication Inforum.
Supporters include the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML, a group that advocates for marijuana legalization. At least one Republican state lawmaker, Rep. Rick Becker, is on board, according to supporters of the initiative. The libertarian-leaning group Liberty ND Pac has also endorsed Measure 3.
Cole Haymond, advisor for Legalize ND, a campaign group for the measure, said in a statement responding to the poll results that “marijuana prohibition has hurt this state and our nation as a whole, and North Dakotans believe it’s time to end that failed practice.”
Legalize ND has disputed the fact that the measure would lead to North Dakota having the nation’s “most liberal” marijuana laws, and rejects claims that it would legalize driving while intoxicated, or smoking marijuana in schools and other public places.
Florida based pollster The Kitchens Group conducted the voter survey, which has a margin of error of +/- 4.9 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level. The company notes that support was strongest among voters under 50 years-old.
“Passage of Measure 3 is greatly dependent upon the voters under the age of 50 voting in at least their historical percentages,” the pollster added. “If the electorate is skewed toward the older, more conservative voters, passage could be problematic.”
Beau Kilmer, co-director of the Drug Policy Research Center at the RAND Corporation, a nonpartisan think-tank, told Route Fifty last month that an unusual aspect of the North Dakota measure is that it would automatically expunge peoples’ criminal records. “In most places it puts the onus on the individual to go through that process,” he said. “Having the onus on the government is somewhat unheard of.”
Separate poll results Gallup published on Monday show that, nationwide, 66 percent of Americans support legalizing marijuana.
Bill Lucia is a Senior Reporter for Government Executive's Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.
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