North Dakota activists are gearing up for a push to put marijuana legalization on the state’s 2022 ballot.
A measure to allow adults 21 and older to possess and cultivate cannabis for personal use was submitted to Secretary of State Al Jaeger on Monday. If it’s accepted, the campaign will be able to start signature gathering to qualify for the ballot.
The same team behind the new measure came close to putting a similar measure on the state’s ballot last year, but petitioning efforts were impeded by the coronavirus pandemic. A separate group of advocates, Legalize ND, also attempted to qualify a different legalization initiative in 2020 that would have allowed retail sales but excluded a home grow option.
The newly submitted proposal would make it so adults would be allowed to possess cannabis and grow up to 12 plants (up to six of which could be mature). It also contains a provision stating that the legislature could later enact regulations to allow for a commercial market.
Previously, a 2018 legalization push that did qualify for the ballot was defeated by voters. Voters in the state did approve a measure to legalize medical cannabis in 2016, though the law was scaled down by the legislature the following year.
Looking ahead, activists are confident that they will have the time, resources and public support to get the job done this round. To succeed, they will need to collect 26,904 valid signatures from registered voters.
Jody Vetters, chair of the campaign that submitted the new proposal on Monday, told Marijuana Moment that this measure represents “a happy medium to appease both sides,” compared to the 2018 proposal.
“It’s time for cannabis to come out of the closet,” she said.
Vetters told the Grand Forks Herald that her team came about 2,000 signatures short of qualifying last year.
Jaeger’s office said it will be reviewing the petition and expects to make a decision about approving the language for petitioning next week.
Meanwhile, activists with the separate Legalize ND group have said they are also considering trying to qualify their own marijuana measure for North Dakota’s midterm ballot next year.
While activists are skeptical that the legislature has the appetite to enact the policy change on their own, it is the case that lawmakers may feel increased pressure given that voters in neighboring South Dakota and Montana elected to legalize cannabis in November.
There are also a slew of other states where advocates are considering pursuing reform in 2022 via the ballot, and campaigns are already collecting signatures for cannabis measures in Idaho and South Dakota.
In the meantime, activists are pushing legislative action to legalize marijuana in a number of states this year.
Read the 2022 North Dakota marijuana legalization proposal below:
Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.