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North Dakota pot legalization campaign can now gather signatures

The pro-legalization group needs to gather 15,582 signatures from North Dakota residents by July 11 to put the question on the ballot in November.

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A proposed ballot measure would legalize the possession and purchase of small amounts of marijuana for North Dakota adults 21 and up. File photo
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BISMARCK — A group of North Dakotans making a late push to place a question about legalizing recreational marijuana on the November ballot can now gather signatures.

North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger announced Thursday, April 21, that he approved the format of a petition that proposes the legalization of possessing and purchasing small amounts of marijuana for adults 21 and up.

The statutory measure would also implement policies to regulate retail marijuana stores and growers. Cannabis products would have to be tested for contaminants, labeled and tracked through a "seed-to-sale inventory system." Driving under the influence and using marijuana products in public would still be prohibited. If passed, the measure would direct regulators to establish rules and create the legal pot program by October 2023.

The 25-member sponsoring committee needs to gather 15,582 signatures from North Dakota residents by July 11 to put the question on the ballot in November. (Legally, the group has a year to gather the signatures, but if it turns in the required signatures after July 11, the measure would go on the ballot in 2024.)

The sponsoring group, led by pro-legalization activist Dave Owen, has announced it will hire petition circulators to gather the requisite signatures over the next two and a half months.

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The language of the proposed measure closely mirrors a 2021 bill that passed the North Dakota House of Representatives but failed in the state Senate.

North Dakota voters approved the legalization of medical marijuana in 2016 against the wishes of many Republican state lawmakers, but voters later rejected a recreational legalization measure led by Owen in 2018. Owen's group suspended an effort to get the question on the 2020 ballot amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recreational pot is now legal in 18 states, including Montana, where voters elected to legalize the drug in 2020. A voter-approved legalization measure in South Dakota was deemed unconstitutional last year by the state's Supreme Court.

Jeremy Turley is a Bismarck-based reporter for Forum News Service, which provides news coverage to publications owned by Forum Communications Company.
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