An activist group in North Dakota has submitted language for an initiative petition that would legalize recreational marijuana in the state. The group, Legalize ND, turned in the required paperwork for the legalization initiative to the office of the secretary of state on Thursday.
If the initiative succeeds at the ballot box, the recreational use of cannabis by adults 21 and older would be legalized. The law would permit adults to possess and transport up to 2 ounces of prepared cannabis. Home cultivation of cannabis would not be legalized.
The measure would also establish a three-member marijuana control commission responsible for licensing cannabis businesses in the state. The initiative would grant local governments the power to regulate the location and operation of marijuana businesses in their jurisdictions.
A 10% excise tax on cannabis products would be used to fund regulation of the industry, with any leftover revenues being divided among six state budget funds. Purchases of recreational marijuana would also be subject to sales tax.
Eliminating Collateral Damage
David Owen, the chairman of Legalize ND, said in a radio interview on Wednesday that the reform of cannabis laws would eliminate the collateral damage of minor marijuana offenses. The initiative would also seal the records of those convicted of low-level pot crimes if they do not have additional charges within one year.
“I think the most important thing isn’t what it would do, but what it would stop from happening,” Owen said. “We currently have a system where people are unable to find a job because of a criminal record, we have a system where people are continuing to get marijuana charges and lose their housing, we have families being separated because of parents losing custody over their children for marijuana charges. That all stops when this is legalized.”
Now that the initiative language has been submitted by Legalize ND, Secretary of State Al Jaeger and Attorney General Wayne Stenjehem have seven days to review the petition and decide if it should be approved for circulation. If approval is granted, supporters will be required to collect at least 13,452 valid signatures by July 6 for the initiative to appear on the ballot for the general election in November 2020. Owen told reporters that he hopes the group will collect at least 18,000 signatures to help ensure enough will be validated to reach the threshold.
“We’ve done it before. We know how to do it again,” Owen said. “It’s going to be pounding the pavement, hitting the streets—same as always.”
Last year, Legalize ND collected enough signatures to qualify a different marijuana legalization measure for the ballot. The initiative, Measure 3, failed at the polls by a vote of 41% in favor of legalization to 59% against.
To address criticism that Measure 3 was poorly written and lacked a regulatory framework, the initiative submitted by Legalize ND on Thursday was written by an attorney and reviewed twice by the state’s Legislative Council, a nonpartisan legal and fiscal agency that assists lawmakers.
Earlier this year, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum signed a bill that decriminalized possession of small amounts of cannabis in the state and reduced the penalties for other marijuana offenses.