There are now five states where voters will cast ballots on adult-use cannabis legalization this November.
North Dakota is the latest to join the initiative push, with Secretary of State Al Jaeger announcing Aug. 15 that he certified New Approach ND’s statutory measure aiming to regulate a licensed industry and allow those 21 and older to purchase, possess and use cannabis.
With that certification, North Dakota joins the likes of Maryland, Missouri, South Dakota and Arkansas in an effort to reform prohibition laws this election cycle. Arkansas’ initiative effort comes with an asterisk, however, as voters await a future Supreme Court ruling on the validity of the constitutional amendment’s title.
Initiative organizers from New Approach ND submitted 26,048 signatures to Jaeger’s office on July 11, leaving a safe buffer for the 15,582 valid signatures required—or 2% of the state’s population—to be placed on the ballot.
Only 2,680 of the submitted signatures (about 10%) were rejected, meaning the group crossed the finish line in excess of nearly 7,800 valid signatures, according to Jaeger’s office.
The possibility of effectuating policy change comes as North Dakota has long had one of the highest cannabis arrests rates in the nation, despite having among the lowest reported marijuana use of any state, NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said in a new release Aug. 15.
“Legalization will not only bring justice to thousands of North Dakotans, but it will also provide a new, booming industry that will help local businesses and the countless family farms in the state,” he said. “We expect that come November, North Dakotans are going to send a loud and clear message that they reject the failed policy of prohibition and that they want to take a new and more sensible approach forward by legalizing and regulating marijuana.”
The ballot measure aims to legalize the possession of up to 1 ounce of cannabis, 4 grams of concentrate or up to 500 milligrams of cannabis in an infused product, as well as the personal cultivation of up to three cannabis plants at private residences.
The initiative also aims to establish a licensed industry for cultivation, processing, retail and testing laboratories, requiring the Department of Health and Human Services, or another department or agency designated by the state Legislature, to establish a licensed program by Oct. 1, 2023. Under the measure, seven cultivation facilities and 18 retailers would be licensed.
Cannabis products would require testing to determine potency and safety, and a track-and-trace system would be implemented from seed to sale to help ensure accurate labeling, according to the certified petition.
While an adult-use cannabis measure appeared before North Dakota voters in 2018, it was rejected by a 20-point margin.
In addition to the five states with cannabis measures lined up for the November ballot, signatures in support of legalization initiatives in Oklahoma (adult use) and Nebraska (medical) are currently being reviewed by state officials to determine whether required thresholds have been met.