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North Dakota Marijuana Activists Say They Already Have More Than Half The Signatures Needed To Put Legalization On November Ballot



The campaign behind a marijuana legalization initiative in North Dakota said this week that it’s collected more than half of the signatures required to put the proposal on November’s ballot. But there’s still a ways to go, and organizers have further petitioning events planned before a July deadline.

“We’re excited to share that our signature collection is making great strides!” the campaign, New Economic Frontier, wrote in an email update to supporters on Thursday. “This week, we’ve internally verified 8,344 signatures, with even more pending review from voters statewide.”

Activists filed the proposal in April, and later that month, the secretary of state approved signature-gathering for the measure.

Backers have until April 25, 2025 to collect at least 15,582 valid voter signatures. To qualify the measure for this year’s general election ballot in November, however, the signatures must be submitted by July 8.

Under the new 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.

The campaign is also looking to expand with more locations, paid signature-gathering positions and volunteers. It’s also asking supporters for financial donations and to spread the word on social media.

Organizers will also be collecting signatures at two events this weekend, including Happy Harry’s RibFest in Fargo and Buggies-n-Blues in Mandan.

“The more supporters we can rally, the stronger our voice will be on this important topic,” New Economic Frontier said in its email this week, asking supporters to recommend signature-gathering locations in more cities across North Dakota.

Casey Neumann, CEO of the medical cannabis companies Pure Dakota and Pure Dakota Health, said when the initiative was filed in April that the reform would make it “easier for our neighbors to access cannabis for their medicinal needs, but also will benefit our state as a whole through its taxation.”

“The positive economic impact alone is a key reason why all North Dakotans should vote yes,” he said. “Legalizing cannabis paves the way for a more prosperous future for our state.”

The campaign at the time emphasized that the language of its initiative would separate North Dakota’s cannabis program as more “conservative” than those in surrounding states, drawing comparisons to Montana, Minnesota and South Dakota. Though South Dakota has not yet legalized, advocates there have collected enough signatures to put the reform to voters in November, the secretary of state’s office announced earlier this week.

Unlike in states such as Minnesota, 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.

“Cannabis legalization is coming, and it’s coming fast,” Steve Bakken, a Burleigh County commissioner and former mayor of Bismarck who chairs the sponsoring committee, said in April.

“We’ve got a choice here—let out-of-state interests call the shots, or take the lead ourselves,” he continued. “We’ve carefully crafted this initiative right here in North Dakota, making sure it fits what our community really needs. Let’s embrace this opportunity the North Dakota way, with common sense and local input guiding the way.”

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.

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Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.

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Ben Adlin, a senior editor at Marijuana Moment, has been covering cannabis and other drug policy issues professionally since 2011. He was previously a senior news editor at Leafly, an associate editor at the Los Angeles Daily Journal and a Coro Fellow in Public Affairs. He lives in Washington State.


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