Omdahl: Does North Dakota Need Another Addiction?
Do we have nicotine? Yes, as much as we can smoke.
Do we have opioids? Yes, enough to run us broke.
Do we have alcohol? Yes, an unlimited supply.
Do we have beer? Yes, we will never go dry.
As though North Dakota needs a fresh supply of addicts, a committee of petitioners has placed on the November ballot a proposal to legalize marijuana for "recreational" purposes. It will be another addiction opportunity for those who missed the others.
Before discussing the proposal, let's make a clear distinction between medical marijuana and recreational marijuana. The advocates of recreational marijuana tend to use the benefits of medical marijuana to strengthen their case.
This proposal has nothing to do with medical marijuana. Medical marijuana is already in state law so sponsors of recreational marijuana cannot use the benefits of medical marijuana as a crutch for their anemic case.
There is little doubt that the taxpayers will be picking up the bills for another batch of addicts who will require treatment, counselling, institutionalization and all of the expensive costs of recovery. North Dakota is not meeting the needs of present addicts let alone adding more to the unserved population.
This is not to mention the fact that more innocent travelers will be killed when those recreating on highways join the normal flow of intoxicated drivers. Recreational marijuana will just double the hazards of driving.
The proposal is very specific about limiting recreational marijuana to persons 21 or older. It proposes harsh treatment for anyone providing "420" to persons under the legal age.
But who are we kidding? Kids are into alcohol and drugs. Leakage in the controls is legendary.
A survey in Colorado asking why 720 students were expelled from public schools discovered that 32 percent of the expulsions involved marijuana.
A couple of 10-year-olds in Colorado were apprehended making marijuana deals at school, selling legally purchased pot from their grandparents supply.
A fourth-grade boy brought a small supply to school, sold it to three classmates, and made $11.
Even though it is legal, kids are into alcohol and tobacco in school. What makes the folks promoting pot think that pot is going to be different? Marijuana addiction will start early.
Dr. Deepak D'Souza of the Yale Medical School said he was concerned about the impact of pot on youth, whose brains don't develop until they are 25 and are more vulnerable to addiction.
"There's no question that the states that have legalized cannabis also have the highest use of cannabis among their youth," he argues. Money will play a big role in the fall fight over legalizing recreational marijuana because there are now players with big investments in this new industry. They will be spending several million dollars to get pot legalized.
All of this is happening while the federal government has marijuana on its illegal list. It will not act because President Trump is sympathetic and Attorney General Sessions is opposed.
Approving this measure will damage young lives, kill more drivers, create more addicts and add to public costs.
Omdahl is a former N.D. lieutenant governor and retired University of North Dakota political science teacher. Email firstname.lastname@example.org