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North Dakota Will Vote on Legalizing Medical Marijuana With Measure 5

The Initiated Statutory Measure 5 would legalize the use, distribution and possession of medical marijuana for specific medical purposes.
Brandon Muhs of Fargo, N.D., pushes a dolly cart with boxes containing petition signatures for a medical marijuana initiative for consideration on the November ballot. Image: Mike McCleary/The Bismarck/AP

North Dakota is looking to grow a medical marijuana industry by legalizing the drug for prescription use.

The Initiated Statutory Measure 5 would legalize the use, distribution and possession of medical marijuana for specific medical purposes, including cancer, AIDS, epilepsy and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The measure would develop regulations for these new industries.

If it passes, the new law would establish a system where patients could register for a medical marijuana card, and designated caregivers could treat one to five patients. It would be similar to the medical marijuana systems established in other states.

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While the state doesn't have a clear majority of voters either for or against the measure, a recent poll commissioned by Forum Communications Co. found 47 percent of voters supported it and 41 percent opposed the law. State law requires at least 50 percent of voters to support the measure before it is approved.

Supporters argue medical marijuana allows for a safer alternative to addictive prescription drugs. They include the North Dakota Farmers Union, North Dakotans for Compassionate Care and former news director of Fox KVRR and state TV icon Jim Shaw.

"Seriously ill people should not be subject to arrest and criminal penalties for using medical marijuana," the pro-measure Yes on 5 campaign stated. "If a doctor believes medical marijuana could provide relief to a patient who is suffering from a debilitating condition, it is unconscionable to prohibit that patient from using it."

Meanwhile, opponents argue the initiative imposes new rules while not providing municipalities any funding to put the proper protections in place. Some argue that medical marijuana is not as effective as supporters claim.

These opponents include state Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and the North Dakota Medical Association.

"The proposed petition would be very difficult to implement in a safe and cost-effective manner," the North Dakota Medical Association said in a statement. "Furthermore, medical marijuana has not been tested or vetted through the Federal Drug Administration's protocols."

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