Marijuana reform activists in North Dakota handed in a petition they think has enough valid signatures to qualify a cannabis legalization question for the state’s ballot in November.

New Approach ND said it presented the secretary of state’s office with 25,762 signatures of registered voters in support of putting the group’s proposal on the ballot. In order to qualify for the ballot, groups must collect 15,582 valid signatures from registered voters.

The question put forward by New Approach ND asks whether the state should reform North Dakota marijuana law to allow adults 21 and older to purchase and possess up to one ounce of marijuana and cultivate up to three plants at home for personal use. The language of the proposal largely reflects that of a bill that was passed by the House but rejected by Senate lawmakers.

“So many people I spoke to were excited to sign our petition, strongly supporting the initiative for a wide variety of reasons,” said New Approach ND Treasurer Mark Friese in a press release. “Having practiced criminal law for more than 20 years, and as a former police officer, it is obvious the status quo of arresting adults for small amounts of marijuana doesn’t make our communities any safer—it only wastes limited law enforcement and court resources. I’m looking forward to presenting the facts about this issue to more and more voters as November approaches.”

New Approach ND campaign manager David Owens believes the group has collected more than enough signatures to qualify, but said it was important to have a buffer in place with several other unrelated ballot initiatives having recently failed to qualify after many signatures were deemed invalid.

The group therefore arranged a last-minute signature drive the weekend before the hand-in deadline.

“This signature drive showed us that, from Williston to Grand Forks, people all across our state are ready for responsible cannabis policy reform,” Owens said. “We are tremendously grateful to the tens of thousands of North Dakotans who signed and our terrific team of signature gatherers. We’re looking forward to all of our hard work paying off when we receive the official word that we’re on the ballot.”

Key provisions of New Approach ND’s recreational cannabis legalization proposal:

Other than the mentioned questions of possession, sales and cultivation limits, here are the main provisions of New Approach ND’s recreational cannabis legalization proposal:

  • The Department of Health and Human Services, or another agency approved by the legislature, would craft the rules for the industry and issue licenses to marijuana businesses.
  • Regulators would have a deadline of October 1, 2023, to finalize the rules for the industry.
  • The regulator could issue a maximum of seven cultivation licenses and 18 retail licenses.
  • Parents using cannabis in accordance with state-law would not face child custody repercussions.
  • Local jurisdictions would be able to prohibit marijuana businesses from operating in their area.
  • Marijuana products would be taxed at the state’s five percent sales tax, with no additional taxes.
  • Public cannabis consumption would be prohibited.

This marks the latest in a series of efforts to legalize cannabis through the ballot process in North Dakota. One such proposal was rejected by voters in 2018. With Owens’ involvement, the group made another attempt in 2020 but failed due to complications raised by the coronavirus pandemic.

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