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North Dakota Voters Oppose Marijuana Legalization Ballot Initiative As Campaign Nears Signature Threshold, Poll Finds



A new poll signals trouble for a North Dakota campaign seeking to put a marijuana legalization initiative on the state’s November ballot, with a majority of likely voters opposing the measure as activists near the finish line to collect enough signatures for qualification.

The survey from the founder of independent political action committee Brighter Future Alliance found that 57 percent of voters are against the cannabis reform measure, compared to 43 percent who are in favor.

This comes shortly after the campaign, New Economic Frontier, announced that they’re only a few hundred signatures away from reaching the threshold to qualify the marijuana legalization initiative for the ballot.

In a more recent update, activists said they had an “amazing weekend” with signature drives to close the cap, though they’re encouraging voters to continue to sign petitions and urge their networks to do the same.

“We’re currently gathering the numbers from across the state and will have an updated count for you next week,” the campaign said. “As we enter the home stretch of our signature drive, we encourage everyone who hasn’t signed yet to find a signing location near you. Please also encourage your friends and family to sign—this is the most impactful way you can support our movement right now!”

Based on the latest polling, however, the campaign may have more work cut out of itself to shore up enough support for passage if it qualifies.

The campaign filed its initiative with the state and formally launched the campaign in April.

Advocates have been internally verifying the signatures throughout the process, with the campaign reaching the halfway point earlier this month. In order to make the ballot this November, they will need to submit 15,582 valid signatures to the state by July 8.

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.

Marijuana Moment is tracking more than 1,500 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

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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.

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Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Sacramento-based managing editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.


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