BISMARCK — Proponents of legalizing recreational marijuana in North Dakota are embarking on another petition effort after missing the signature cut-off for their measure to appear on last year's ballot.
Supporters of the measure, which would amend the state Constitution to legalize personal possession of cannabis, submitted their petition to Secretary of State Al Jaeger on Monday, Jan. 11, seeking approval to appear on the 2022 general election ballot.
If Jaeger approves the measure, backers can begin collecting the 26,904 signatures needed to appear on the ballot.
The new measure is the same as the one that circulated ahead of last year's election, according to the measure's chairwoman Jody Vetter, and focuses strictly on the personal growth and possession — not the sale — of cannabis for residents 21 and older.
Last year, Vetter's measure came up some 2,000 signatures shy of qualifying for the ballot. But Vetter said their last push was hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic, which interrupted the petitioning process for months, and noted that she believes they are better prepared and have more time ahead of the next election.
Recent attempts to legalize recreational cannabis in North Dakota have come up short. A separate effort to change state law, called Legalize ND, refocused on the 2022 elections due to pandemic concerns during its signature drive last year.
And while the Legislature decriminalized marijuana and initiated a study on the effects of legalizing the substance in its last session, Vetter said she doesn't see a viable path to legalization through the lawmakers.
"I don't think there's really any interest in the Legislature to move forward with any further legalization," she said.
Just in the last few months, marijuana legalization has made headway in neighboring states. Voters in South Dakota and Montana approved the use of recreational marijuana in the November elections, and Democratic leaders have recently pushed for legalization on the Minnesota side as well.
In 2016, North Dakotans voted to legalize medical marijuana, though those laws were significantly rewritten by the Legislature in the subsequent session.
Jaeger said in a statement that his office will complete a review of the new petition sometime next week.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Adam Willis, a Report for America corps member, at firstname.lastname@example.org.