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Marijuana: Candidates for North Dakota Governor Disagree

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It seems like the conversation about legalizing marijuana is popping up just about everywhere these days. On Thursday night, the question of whether to end cannabis prohibition came up during a debate between Republican candidates for North Dakota’s governor.

With less than a month to go before a nominee is endorsed by party insiders at the state GOP convention, the contenders were divided when asked about possible ballot measures on legalization and medical cannabis.

State Rep. Rick Becker said, “I would vote yes.” 

Former Microsoft executive Doug Burgum said he supports medical cannabis but not full legalization.

And Wayne Stenehjem, who has served as the state’s attorney general since 2000 and has been reelected four times with wide margins, says he opposes legalizing cannabis for any purpose.

Stenehjem says he’s spoken to attorneys general in other states that have legalized marijuana and predicts that doing so in North Dakota would cause a “host of problems,” calling it “a bad move.”

Medical marijuana advocates are currently circulating petitions to put an initiative on this November’s ballot. The measure, which would allow registered patients to possess up to three ounces of cannabis and grow as many as eight plants if they live further than 40 miles from a dispensary, needs 13,452 valid signatures from registered voters by July 11 in order to qualify.

An October 2014 poll found that 47 percent of North Dakotans support medical marijuana, with 41 percent opposed and nine percent undecided.

North Dakota has traditionally chosen its nominees for elected office at partisan conventions such as the one the state GOP is holding April 1-3. While Becker and Stenehjem say they will abide the outcome of the convention, Burgum says he will run for the nod from voters in the state’s June 14 primary.

A poll conducted last month found Stenehjem leading Burgum 59 percent to 10 percent, with 31 percent undecided. Becker’s names was omitted from the survey.

There is currently no Democratic candidate for the office, which has been held by Republicans since 1992. Current Gov. Jack Dalrymple has declined to run for another term.

Thursday’s event was reportedly the party’s first-ever pre-convention debate between gubernatorial contenders.

Photo Courtesy of Allie Beckett

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