By James MacPherson
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A measure to legalize cannabis in North Dakota would cost more than $2 million annually for the first three years if it’s approved, though tax revenue and other fees generated from the sales are not yet known, according to agency estimates provided to lawmakers Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018.
The Legislative Management Committee, which includes the Legislature’s Republican and Democratic floor leaders, accepted agencies’ assessments as part of a review of November’s ballot measures and their potential budget consequences for the state government.
Backers of the marijuana proposal seek to legalize recreational cannabis for people 21 and older. Approval of the measure also would seal the records of people in North Dakota convicted of a marijuana-related crime that would be made legal under the measure.
North Dakota voters approved cannabis for medical purposes in 2016. Nearly 64 percent of voters approved Initiated Statutory Measure 5 to clear the way for medical marijuana.
The state attorney general’s office estimated 124 temporary workers would have to be hired at a cost of $1.1 million to expunge nearly 180,000 cannabis-related criminal records.
Other costs include an estimate by the state Health Department which wants to spend more than $4 million in the next two-year budget cycle for additional staff and an education campaign aimed at “the health impact and physical addiction attributed to marijuana use” among youths.
Democratic House Minority Leader Cory Mock Democratic state Sen. Erin Oban, spoke against including Health Department’s assessment because the education component, that they said is probably needed, was not part of the measure’s intent.