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North Dakota House Approves Cannabis Legalization Bill

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The North Dakota House of Representatives approved HB 1420 for cannabis legalization on February 23rd under a measure sponsored by Rep. Jason Dockter (R). While Dockter is opposed to policy change regarding the legalization of marijuana, the lawmaker prefers that legislature be in control of rule-setting rather than leaving it up to activists via a ballot measure. 

After narrowly clearing the Human Services Committee last week, the House advanced the legislation by a 56-38 margin. Additionally, lawmakers passed a complimentary bill that would establish a regulated tax structure for the adult-use, recreational cannabis market in the state. 

Next Steps for North Dakota Cannabis Legalization 

With HB 1420 clearing the house, the bill will now be passed along to the Senate for consideration. Should that chamber approve the measure, Gov. Doug Burgum (R) will be tasked with whether to sign the bill into law or veto. 

Activist Group ND for Freedom of Cannabis Act has also filed their own version of a legal marijuana measure. The group will require 26,904 valid signatures from North Dakotans across the state in order for the measure to qualify for the ballot in 2022. 

Dockter has acknowledged that legal marijuana is inevitable in the state, as neighboring states such as South Dakota have already legalized cannabis for recreational use. While Dockter and his GOP colleagues would rather not enact reform, they believe that the best path forward is to create their own legislation to retain control against activist-led measures. 

Distinctions Between Activist and Lawmaker Proposals 

HB 1240 — the government-sponsored marijuana legalization bill — would allow for adults over the age of 21 to purchase and possess up to one ounce of marijuana for personal use. However, home cultivation would not be allowed. 

The activist-led measure, on the other hand, would allow for home cultivation. North Dakota residents would be permitted to grow up to six mature plants for harvest. 

In a highly republican state, the future of marijuana in North Dakota is largely unpredictable. However, with lawmakers resigning to the fact that cannabis reform is on the way one way or another, it would appear that a measure — whether it be activist-led or government-sponsored — will take effect in 2022. 

Contributed by Jack Berning

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