North Dakota voters will decide whether to legalize marijuana in November ballot, state certifies
North Dakota voters will have the chance to decide whether to legalize marijuana in the November ballot.
About a month after activists filed signatures for their reform initiative, Secretary of State Al Jaeger’s office (right) approved the measure on Monday, certifying that the campaign had submitted enough valid petitions to submit the measure to voters.
New Approach ND was initially cleared for signature collection in April. It ended up producing 23,368 valid submissions. While a few thousand were deemed invalid, the state said activists eventually came out on top with 7,786 more valid signatures than needed.
The initiative would allow adults 21 and older to purchase and possess up to one ounce of cannabis and grow up to three plants for personal use. Its provisions largely mirror the legalization bill passed by the House, which was ultimately defeated by the Senate.
Jaeger’s office rejected two other ballot initiatives on unrelated issues this cycle after determining that many of the signatures collected by those campaigns were invalid, but New Approach ND campaign manager David Owen has previously said that he was convinced that he had taken the necessary precautions to ensure that their measure would be accepted.
Here is a breakdown of the main provisions of the measure:
-Adults 21 and older may purchase and possess up to one ounce of cannabis, four grams of marijuana concentrate, and flower produced from up to three cultivated plants for personal use, as long as that cannabis is stored in the same place the plant was grown.
-The Department of Health and Human Services, or another body designated by the legislature, would be responsible for creating rules for the program and overseeing licensing for marijuana businesses.
-Regulators would have until October 1, 2023 to develop rules for safety, advertising, labeling, packaging and testing standards.
-The department could only authorize a maximum of seven cultivation facilities and 18 retailers. In an effort to mitigate the risk of the market being monopolized by large corporations, the initiative stipulates that no person or entity would be allowed to own more than one grow facility or four retail outlets.
-There would be specific child custody protections for parents who use cannabis according to state law.
-Employers could continue to enforce the existing drug policy prohibiting the use of marijuana.
-Regarding prior criminal records, the initiative would not provide a pathway for expungements, though campaigners say they intend to work with the legislature to enact separate legislation addressing the issue in 2023.
-Local jurisdictions could prohibit marijuana businesses from operating in their area, and cannabis businesses would also be required to follow local zoning rules.
-The 5% state sales tax would apply to cannabis products, but no additional tax would be imposed specifically for marijuana.
-Manufacturers would pay a two-year registration fee of $110,000 and retailers would pay $90,000. These funds would support the ministry’s implementation and administration of the adult use program.
-The initiative does not foresee any specific use of the funds collected from these fees beyond administration.
– Public consumption would be prohibited.
A similar measure was introduced in the Legislative Assembly in 2021. Rep. Jason Dockter’s (R) bill passed the House, but was defeated by the full Senate after leaving committee.
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Following that defeat, some senators devised a new plan to move the issue forward by returning it to voters in the 2022 ballot. The resolution passed through a key committee last year, but the Senate also blocked it.
There have been repeated attempts by activists to enact legalization in the Peace Garden State.
Advocates for the North Dakota Cannabis Caucus began collecting signatures to qualify a constitutional amendment legalizing cannabis for the 2022 ballot, but they didn’t collect enough by the January deadline.
Owen previously led an effort to place a legalization measure on the 2018 ballot that was rejected by voters. They filed another initiative for 2020, but complications in collecting signatures largely caused by the coronavirus pandemic got in the way.
Meanwhile, a bill to dramatically expand the decriminalization of marijuana in North Dakota passed the House last year but was later defeated in the Senate.
This legislation would have built on an early marijuana decriminalization law that was signed into law in 2019. Under current law, possession of half an ounce or less of cannabis is an offense punishable by a fine of up to up to $1,000, with no jail time. The rejected proposal would have made possession of up to one ounce a non-criminal offense punishable by a $50 fine.
House Majority Leader Chet Pollert (right) has previously said he’s not a ‘marijuana lover’, but he acknowledged cannabis legalization is imminent. While he would previously have been inclined to oppose a legalization bill, Pollert said voter endorsement of a legalization initiative in South Dakota made him reconsider, adding that the legislature should “consider carefully” the change in policy.
North Dakota voters approved a medical cannabis ballot measure in 2016.
Here are other states where drug policy reform could be decided by voters in the November ballot:
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Michigan activists announced in June that they would no longer pursue a ballot initiative on the legalization of psychedelics statewide for this year’s election and would instead focus on qualifying the measure in front of voters. in 2024.
The campaign behind an effort to decriminalize drugs and expand treatment and recovery services in Washington state said in June it had halted efforts to label an initiative for the ballot as november.
While Wyoming activists said earlier this year they had made solid progress collecting signatures for a pair of ballot initiatives to decriminalize marijuana possession and legalize medical cannabis, they don’t. have not achieved enough to meet the 2022 ballot deadline and will aim for 2024 while simultaneously pushing lawmakers to push forward reform even sooner.
In March, California activists announced they had failed to collect enough signatures to qualify a move to legalize psilocybin mushrooms for the state’s November ballot, though they weren’t giving up on a future candidacy for the electoral cycle.
Meanwhile, there are various local reforms activists want voters to decide in November, including local ordinances to decriminalize marijuana in Ohio, West Virginia and Texas.
Wisconsin voters in at least half a dozen cities and counties will be invited to the November ballot if they support the legalization, taxation and regulation of cannabis in a manner similar to alcohol. These advisory questions will not be binding, however, and are intended to take the temperature of voters and send a message to lawmakers about where their constituents stand.
Read the Notice and Letter from the North Dakota Secretary of State on Marijuana Legalization Ballot Initiative Certification below:
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Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.