North Dakota marijuana legalization group withdraws petition for rewrite

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BISMARCK — A group seeking to legalize recreational marijuana in North Dakota through the ballot box withdrew a petition submitted to state election officials Tuesday, May 21, and plans to rewrite the proposal, the sponsoring committee's chairman said.

John Bailey, of Courtenay, N.D., called it a "group decision" to redraft the proposed constitutional amendment , but he declined to specify what changes were in store. Secretary of State Al Jaeger said just before noon Tuesday that the petition had been withdrawn hours after it was submitted Monday.

"There were a few things that needed to be changed on it," Bailey said.

The original petition would allow North Dakotans to grow marijuana on private property for personal use as well as consume or possess the drug "in any form." It calls for lawmakers to establish a system for regulating marijuana and allows voters to petition for public sales in their communities.

Organizers would need 26,904 signatures to ask voters to amend the constitution.


Meanwhile, another group is still planning to launch a campaign for a statutory ballot measure, said David Owen, who led an unsuccessful legalization effort last year. He's planning to start collect signatures soon after an early July kickoff event.

Last year's Measure 3 was criticized as being too wide-open, and nearly 60% of voters rejected it. Owen said their next measure would include more regulations over marijuana, and he emphasized that they were separate from Bailey's group.

"They're trying to redo Measure 3 basically," he said. "I don't think the population of North Dakota has changed to the point that we can relitigate (it)."

Bailey argued their measure is structured differently than Measure 3 and said embedding the language in the constitution would protect it from legislative meddling. He didn't see it as a competing measure to the one Owen's group is drafting.

"We all have a right to support what we feel is correct," he said.

Owen also raised concerns that some members of the other sponsoring committee appeared to have serious criminal records beyond drug paraphernalia or possession charges, which he said could bolster legalization opponents' stereotypes that marijuana users are "deviants and undesirables."

Bailey said they didn't check committee members' backgrounds. He said people with criminal records would be welcomed back once they resubmit a petition.

"I'm not going to subject anybody to their past if they don't want to be," Bailey said.

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