Voters in North Dakota will finally have their say on whether to legalize recreational pot or not. On Monday, officials announced that the question would be on the state’s ballot this November. Al Jaegers, Secretary of State, confirmed that advocates had gathered sufficient signatures to qualify the measure for voting. Dave Owen is the leader of Legalize ND, the group responsible for sponsoring the initiative.
In speaking with local media, Owen said that the initiative is “very simple” and “implementable on day one.” In explaining, he simplified the issue perfectly, “This measure is basically a referendum. Do you want recreational marijuana? Yes or no.” Back in July, Legalize ND gathered 17,695 signatures from North Dakotans supportive of the measure and submitted it to the Secretary of State.
According to the office of the Secretary of State, it determined that 14,637 of the collected signatures were valid, which exceeds the 13,452 signatures required to qualify for the ballot. It is a straightforward measure that puts no limitations on either the cultivation or the possession of marijuana by legal adults. This is refreshing, as other states restrict the quantity that people can grow and have in their possession.
If voters approve it, the initiative will legalize personal cultivation and possession of marijuana in North Dakota. However, unlike laws legalizing recreational pot use in other states, there are no limits on the North Dakota measure, which will allow people to cultivate as much as they need. The initiative also authorizes cultivation and sales commercially.
Erik Altieri, the executive director of NORML, or the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, applauded the activists who worked so tirelessly to qualify the initiative for the election in November. “We congratulate the hard work and dedication from the campaign and countless volunteers on the ground in North Dakota, who went door to door and out into their communities to gather the signatures required to put this on the ballot in November,” he said.
Altieri also added that, “Marijuana legalization is no longer a regional or partisan issue. Well over 60 percent of all Americans support ending our nation’s failed prohibition, and I expect North Dakota voters to send shockwaves across the country this fall, when they join the growing contingent of states who have chosen the sensible path of legalization and regulation over prohibition and incarceration.”
Wayne Stenehjem, North Dakota Attorney General, has already voiced his very clear opposition to the initiative on previous occasions. In June, he told reporters that he does not think that legalization marijuana would be good for the state in any way. Like other lawmakers across the country, the profits involved in taxing cannabis could still change his mind.
For now, though, Stenehjem says, “It could put pressure on the treatment providers because there are a number of people who are in treatment where marijuana is their No. 1 drug of choice, so I think it just might shift the law enforcement issues from one place to another.” He also reiterated, “I have said for a long time that I do not think, if marijuana is legalized in North Dakota, we will be healthier or safer.”
Despite these words, however, patients are still waiting for legal access to medical cannabis. The program is facing many delays. If successful this November, the recreational weed initiative could speed access to medical marijuana patients throughout the state. Back in 2016, voters approved the North Dakota Compassionate Care Act with a 64 percent majority vote, legalizing it for medical use.
However, almost two years later, the state legislature is still contemplating all the details of the medical pot law. The measure has yet to start implementation even. The state announced earlier that it has received nearly 20 applications for dispensary licenses, but even so, sales of medical marijuana are unlikely to begin until next year, if then.