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North Dakota Will Vote On Legalizing Marijuana This November

The next state that could legalize marijuana is one that hasn’t received much publicity: North Dakota. More than 18,700 signatures were submitted to the Secretary of State’s office Monday in support of a measure that would legalize recreational marijuana. North Dakotans required a total of 13,452 signatures to secure the measure on the ballot and now will have the chance this November to vote on legalization.

According to the Bismarck Tribune, the petition effort was largely driven by 100 volunteers starting back in December. The group reached the necessary signatures in May but added more to provide a “pillow.” Dave Owen, chairperson of the ND Legalization Initiative, said 451 packets, each including 44 signatures, was submitted.

“It’s great to see three to four years of hard work finally pay off, and to get people what they really want and what they deserve, because the people of North Dakota deserve this,” Owen told the Bismarck Tribune.

The effort to put marijuana on the ballot was a completely grassroots initiative, similar to the successful endeavor by Oklahomans to legalize medical marijuana. The ND Legalization group received no financial backing from national advocacy groups like the Marijuana Policy Project or the Drug Policy Alliance.

“Not a single penny was spent on petitioning and gathering, because we wanted this to be the will of the people, not the will of some big company out in Lord knows where,” Owen said. “This is, primarily, a grassroots effort.”

The ND Legalize website clarifies specifically what the petitioned measure would legalize:

The measure legalizes the use, sale, possession, and distribution of marijuana for anyone 21 years or older.  For anyone under the age of 21, the law creates a new specific subset of non-felony penalties. Additionally, the law legalizes “paraphernalia” for marijuana exclusively. Finally, records are expunged for anyone that followed the new law even if it occurred in the past, except for cases of someone being under the age of 21.

As you can see, the measure leaves many open-ended questions to provide the framework of recreational marijuana in North Dakota. Details like possession limits, dispensary regulations, and home-growing aren’t mentioned, which activists say was by design.

“We leave our bill wide open so the legislature can do their job—regulations, taxes, zoning, whatever,” Cole Haymond, an adviser to the Legalize ND campaign, told the Washington Post. “This bill is by far the most progressive yet most conservative marijuana legalization bill that will be on any ballot across the country.”

Owen added that North Dakota will have the “strictest” law when it comes to operating a motor vehicle under the influence of marijuana. The possibility of “stoned” drivers, Owen said, is a major hang-up for those that oppose the measure.

The Secretary of State’s office must now validate the signatures, which could take up to 35 days. A draft of the ballot measure will follow.

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