How Recreational MJ Could Affect North Dakota’s Largest City: Interview with Mayor Dr. Tim Mahoney
Courtesy of the activism and the collection of the necessary number of signatures by cannabis legalization advocacy group Legalize ND, the possibility of full recreational cannabis legalization will be voted upon this November in North Dakota by way of Measure 3. Similar to many previous measures passed in other states, Measure 3 would not only create a regulated legal recreational cannabis market, and also allow for individuals previously convicted of marijuana to possibly receive expungement of those prior offenses given other circumstances that may be related to their cases.
While recreational legalization could potentially bring large economic opportunities to the very agriculturally-based economy of The Peace Garden State and lead to further criminal justice reform, it’s still important to understand the viewpoints of elected officials within the state and those that will be governing.
To receive a more detailed and personal viewpoint on how recreational legalization could affect both North Dakota’s largest city as well as the state in the big picture, I spoke with Fargo mayor Dr. Tim Mahoney.
Although he sees farmers with less acres or hobby farmers growing cannabis, Mayor Mahoney doesn’t predict cannabis profits overtaking the sales of “well-established crops” such as corn, soybeans, wheat, sugar beets, potatoes and sunflowers.
As both mayor of the Peace Garden State’s most populous city and a medical professional, understanding Mahoney’s viewpoints on cannabis is certainly crucial to both sides of the marijuana legalization debate in their state.
Unlike other states with legalization such as Colorado and Washington, Mahoney doesn’t see property values necessarily being increased in North Dakota. However, the mayor believes recreational legalization could lead to both changes and conflicts in the policies and procedures of law enforcement, with a special emphasis on police officers with four legs and fur who are usually referred to as “good boy” or “good girl”.
Mahoney said that due to cannabis remaining illegal at the federal level regardless of whether Measure 3 passes, this could lead to confusion among North Dakota police officers as to exactly how to enforce the laws.
To comment on the subject of changes in crime rates and practices of law enforcement, The Fargo mayor mainly shared the opinions of Fargo Chief of Police David Todd. And to address the aforementioned police officers with four legs, Mahoney said that Todd believes that drug-detecting K9 officers will require retraining and necessary changes in future training courses, both of which will undoubtedly cost taxpayer dollars.
Todd commented that, “if cannabis is legalized, more officers will be needed in general and specifically more officers who are trained as drug recognition experts to determine exactly what substance a person is under the influence of.”
Mahoney hopes that if legalized, that retail cannabis businesses are taxable and a portion of tax revenue will be allocated to North Dakota law enforcement branches.
On the subject of the general public of the state and how they view cannabis legalization, Mahoney thinks that the perceptions will change as time moves forward.
“This is a very political topic and I do believe that perceptions of cannabis will change as time goes on.” Mahoney said.
“As for North Dakotans voting in favor of legalizing recreational cannabis, I think it depends on who comes out to vote. Fargo is a young city, with the average age of our citizens being 32. People did not accept gay marriage at first, but now they do. The state is slowly becoming accepting of things that show we are evolving as a city and state.”
On the subject of cannabis tax revenue allocation, Mahoney said, “Locally, I would also allocate any tax revenue from cannabis to public schools and drug rehab programs as well as programs for the homeless and the Native American population.”
In terms of his opinions on the proven medical benefits of cannabis, Dr. Mahoney commented, “My opinion as a doctor about cannabis is that it is like any medication. There are good reasons and benefits to using it as well as possible adverse side effects. I think it could be good for anxiety disorders, cancer and other issues a patient might have.”
Fargo has a population close to 123,000 citizens and North Dakota has a total population of slightly over 755,000 citizens. The outcome of Measure 3 will be the determining factor in recreational cannabis access to this population, and maybe introducing several new business types previously unseen in the state economy.
North Dakota is geographically situated a vast distance away from another state offering recreational cannabis, so the state could very well receive a grand influx of cannabis tourism. Colorado saw a tourism boost in several parts of Colorado upon Amendment 64’s implementation. If the measure is successfully passed, then North Dakota could become a Midwestern mecca of recreational marijuana and canna-tourism, truly living up to it’s name of “The Peace Garden State.”
According to the Ballotpedia page for Measure 3, the poll results for whether the measure will pass vary depending on the source. On a poll conducted by LegalizeND via Kitchens Group, 46 percent of 522 polled voters will vote in favor while 39 percent will oppose the measure. On another conducted by Bismarck-based advertising agency Odney, 56 percent of the 400 polled voters said they would oppose the measure.
As Americans who witnessed the results of the 2016 presidential election, we learned not to blindly follow the results of polls and that it’s of utmost importance to cast your vote despite the forecast of the polls.
Regardless of your personal feelings on cannabis or any other political issues, fulfilling your civic duty and voting is an American right that should always be exercised.
For more information on how to register to vote in North Dakota, please visit: https://www.dmv.org/nd-north-dakota/voter-registration.php