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North Dakota Activists Say Marijuana Legalization Initiative Needs Just A Few Hundred More Signatures For November Ballot



North Dakota activists say they’re only a few hundred signatures away from reaching the threshold to qualify a marijuana legalization initiative for the November ballot.

Just two months after filing the cannabis measure and launching the campaign, New Economic Frontier announced on Wednesday that they’ve collected 15,179 of the 15,582 required signatures for ballot placement. And they’re promoting petitioning events across the state—including drive-through collections in Fargo and Bismarck this upcoming weekend—to close that gap.

The campaign has been internally verifying the signatures throughout the process, with activists reaching the halfway point earlier this month. In order to make the ballot this November, they will need to submit the petitions by July 8.

“We’re blown away by the support from our community,” Steve Bakken, chairman of New Economic Frontier, said in a press release. “The success of our signature drive so far shows just how passionate North Dakotans are about economic progress.”

“We’ve thoughtfully developed this initiative right here at home, making sure it aligns with our local values and needs. With the upcoming drive-through events, I’m confident we’ll hit our goal,” he said.

Under the legalization measure, adults 21 and older would be able to possess up to one ounce of marijuana flower, four grams of concentrate and 300 milligrams of edibles that they could buy from a limited number of licensed dispensaries. Adults could also grow up to three plants for personal use, with a six-plant cap per household.

The state Department of Health and Human Services or another agency designated by the legislature would be responsible for regulating the program. Regulators would need to establish rules to implement the law by October 1, 2025.

North Dakota voters rejected an earlier cannabis legalization proposal at the ballot box two years ago.

The new proposal would limit regulators to approving licenses for up to seven cannabis manufacturers and 18 retailers. There are also provisions meant to avoid creating intrastate monopolies, such as limiting licensees to no more than four dispensaries.

Currently, there are eight medical cannabis dispensaries operating in North Dakota. The initiative requires regulators to develop separate application processes for those businesses to become dual licensees and non-existing companies that wish to become recreational operators.

Some of the those dispensaries are among the nearly two dozen locations that the campaign says have petitions available on site for supporters to sign. Others include smoke and vape shops, hemp product retailers and record store.

Unlike other legal states, the proposal in North Dakota doesn’t appear to contain criminal justice reform components favored by equity advocates such as expungements or licensing prioritization for people harmed by the drug war. It also doesn’t seem to contain any references to a proposed tax scheme for legal sales.

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In 2021, North Dakota’s House approved a marijuana legalization bill sponsored by Rep. Jason Dockter (R), but it was ultimately defeated in the Senate after advancing through committee.

Following that defeat, some senators devised a new plan to advance the issue by referring it to voters on the 2022 ballot. The resolution moved through a key committee in 2021, but the Senate also blocked it.

There have been repeated attempts by activists to enact legalization in the Peace Garden state over the years.

Advocates with the separate group North Dakota Cannabis Caucus started collecting signatures to qualify a constitutional amendment legalizing cannabis for the 2022 ballot, but they did not gather enough by deadline.

New Approach ND previously led an effort to place a legalization measure on the 2018 ballot that was defeated by voters. They filed another initiative for 2020, but signature gathering complications largely caused by the coronavirus pandemic got in the way.

North Dakota voters approved a medical cannabis ballot measure in 2016.

Last year, North Dakota’s governor signed a bill allowing patients admitted to hospice care to self-certify as medical marijuana patients.

The North Dakota House of Representatives also approved a resolution last year that encourages residents to buy U.S. flags that are made out of hemp and manufactured in the state.

Delaware House Passes Bill To Launch Recreational Marijuana Sales Early Through Existing Medical Cannabis Dispensaries

Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.

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