North Dakotans are voting today on Measure 2, the state’s 2022 adult-use cannabis legalization initiative.

Polls close at 7 p.m. CT / 6 p.m. MT.

Make sure to refresh this page, where we will provide updates on North Dakota’s Measure 2 throughout the night. Read the full initiative here.

If supported by voters, the 2022 ballot proposal will legalize the possession of up to 1 ounce of cannabis, 4 grams of concentrate and up to 500 milligrams of THC 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. 

July poll from The Dickinson Press surveying southwest North Dakota readers found that 39% of respondents said they supported the measure, 43% were opposed and 18% were apathetic. Sentiments in the area may have changed over four years, the newspaper suggests; a similar poll the paper conducted in 2018 saw southwestern North Dakotans supported that year’s adult-use legalization measure 60% to 40%. That 2018 poll result reflected the inverse of the ultimate statewide vote outcome, a 59%-to-41% defeat, for adult-use legalization that year.

The week prior to Election Day 2022, Cannabis Business Times spoke with David Owen, chairperson of New Approach North Dakota, the group behind Measure 2.

Owen also served as chairman of Legalize ND, the group behind the 2018 legalization measure. He said last week: “We think the climate has changed substantially since then.” 

The initiative would allow cannabis consumers in North Dakota to purchase and possess more cannabis than is allowed in the state’s medical program, Owen said.

Owen said there are “three big problems with the medical program” in North Dakota. First, Veterans Affairs doctors are not allowed to recommend cannabis to military veterans. Second, many doctors in the state are not issuing cannabis recommendations, in general.

“And number three, you always have the health insurance problem,” Owen said. “Medical marijuana is not recognized as a medicine for the purposes of health insurance. And in some cases, using medical marijuana can cause [patients] to lose that health insurance. So, in a recreational system, you don’t have to fight a system that is designed to stop you from getting access to it. You don’t have to fight with the doctors …. You don’t have to worry about the health insurance side of things. And you don’t have to worry so much about the affordability, because in a legal market, there’s more supply, and when there’s more supply, prices do fall.”

Because Measure 2 would allow adults 21 and older to pay the same tax rates as the state’s medical program patients while also being allowed to purchase greater amounts of cannabis products, including edibles, state Medical Marijuana Division Director Jason Wahl told a legislative panel in September that the medical cannabis registry could shrink by at least 80%.

Contrastingly, Owen said he doesn’t believe the measure would lead to a reduction in the medical cannabis registry.

“If you’re in the medical program and you like your medicine, you’ll be able to keep your medical marijuana,” Owen said. “There will be no tangible impact on the medical program, with one exception: The people who are waiting for a medical card, who have these terrible conditions, who have been fighting and struggling, are going to be able to get their medicine day one as opposed to going through [the] rigamarole that is our medical system.

“So, no, I don’t think the medical market will be affected. I think this will, if anything, serve as a stopgap for suffering patients who are trying but unable to get into the medical marijuana program.”

In a report submitted to North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger, the North Dakota Legislative Council shared figures from various state agencies and local governments estimates of the measure’s fiscal impact. The report states that a fiscal note prepared by the state’s Department of Health and Human Services “identifies, for the remainder of the 2021-23 biennium through the 2025-27 biennium, total estimated revenues of $3,145,000 and total estimated expenditures of $4,985,632.”

Owen pointed out that The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, the Grand Forks Herald, The Jamestown Sun and The Dickinson Press all endorsed Measure 2. Each publication published the same letter bylined by the editorial board of Forum Communications Co., the publisher of those news outlets.

A 2019 Pew Research study found that two-thirds of Americans support cannabis legalization.

Read more about Measure 2 and North Dakota’s medical program here.

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