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North Dakota Marijuana Legalization Measure Makes The Ballot

“The government shouldn’t be in the business of punishing adults who use cannabis responsibly,” ~ New Approach ND

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North Dakota voters will decide in November whether to legalize Cannabis for adult use, reports The Bismarck Tribune.

Secretary of State Al Jaeger on Monday said his office accepted 23,368 of 26,048 signatures submitted July 11 by supporters of the ballot measure.

Petitioners needed 15,582 signatures to prompt a public vote and easily exceeded that threshold. That’s despite Jaeger throwing away nearly 2,700 signatures. Three-quarters of the rejections were due to “inadequate signature” and address omissions, Jaeger’s office reports.

7 Cultivation Centers; 18 Dispensaries

The 19-page measure seeks to allow adults 21 or older to purchase and use small amounts of Cannabis. It also sets up the framework for the sale of marijuana within North Dakota.

That process is implemented by the state Department of Health and Human Services, or by another entity as determined by the Legislature.

The department could register up to seven marijuana manufacturing businesses and 18 dispensaries.

“No Public Safety Benefit From Arresting Adults For Small Amounts Of Marijuana”

“There is no public safety benefit from arresting adults for small amounts of marijuana,” said New Approach ND treasurer Mark Friese. Friese is a Fargo criminal defense attorney and former Bismarck police officer.

“It is a waste of taxpayer resources and a distraction from serious public safety concerns. Cannabis causes far less harm than alcohol,” Friese said. ”Many people find therapeutic benefits from it.

“The government shouldn’t be in the business of punishing adults who use cannabis responsibly,” Friese said.

North Dakota House Passed Legalization; Senate Killed It

Similar petition drives have failed in recent years to gather enough signatures to place a measure on the ballot. 

Marijuana also was a hot topic during the 2021 legislative session. The House of Representatives passed several bills to legalize, tax and decriminalize Cannabis.

But the South Dakota Senate unceremoniously killed the legislation. Hidebound conservative state senators claimed supposed health consequences for young people; negative effects on families; and increased traffic crashes, DUIs and police work.

North Dakota Is An Island Of Pot Prohibition

State representatives brought the bills to head off citizen-initiated efforts to legalize recreational Cannabis through North Dakota’s constitution.

Proponents noted North Dakota is an island among neighboring states and Canada when it comes to legalized recreational marijuana. Meanwhile, the South Dakota Supreme Court struck down a 2020 voter-approved measure legalizing the herb in that state for recreational use. A similar measure is set for South Dakota voters this fall. Montana voters legalized recreational marijuana in 2020.

A new Minnesota law recently took effect allowing adults 21 and older to buy edibles and beverages that contain a limited amount of THC. That’s the primary ingredient in marijuana that creates a high.

State Voters Approved Medical Marijuana In 2016

North Dakota voters approved a state medical marijuana program in 2016. But they handily rejected adult-use Cannabis in 2018, with 59 percent opposed.

Jaeger earlier this year rejected petitions from two other measure groups, citing supposed signature irregularities and violations of state law. He notified the attorney general for investigation of each situation.

He said “there is only one situation” among the 2,680 signatures his office rejected of the marijuana measure petitions “which may result in a referral” for investigation. That relaters to 362 signatures from one circulator rejected “when signatures are affixed to a petition by someone other than a qualified elector.”

Absentee ballots for the general election will be available to all North Dakota voters beginning Sept. 29.

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