North Dakota: Recreational marijuana supporters to give it another shot in 2020

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Legalize ND leader David Owen said they are “100 percent” going to try again in 2020 to pass a recreational marijuana bill in North Dakota.

Despite failing by a 59 percent to 41 percent margin earlier this month, Owen said they are using North Dakota attorneys to write the new proposed language for the ballot measure.

What will be different, he said, is that the proposal will include provisions for tax revenue from sales and limits on the amounts of marijuana an individual can grow or possess.

Other regulations are also planned. “It’ll be a more traditional legalization bill,” he said, similar to those that have passed in other states.

He also said if legislators work on a decriminalization bill in the upcoming legislative session starting in January, he would “100 percent” support that step.

“As long as we can keep people out of prison for marijuana and allow people to have theirs for their medicine, I’m all for it,” said Owen, who has said he doesn’t smoke pot himself.

Owen said they decided to go for it again about two days after the election and will stick with the same leadership team.

The measure passed in only four counties, including Cass County, the state’s largest, by a 51 percent to 49 percent margin. The other three counties were on the state’s Indian reservations. In all, 193,837 voters opposed the measure, while 132,199 supported it.

Nationwide, nine states and Washington, D.C., allow recreational marijuana sales, with Massachusetts opening up its first stores last Tuesday.

Earlier this month, while North Dakota voters were shooting down their ballot measure, Michigan voters became the first in the Midwest to approve recreational marijuana by 56 to 44 percent. Their law goes into effect Dec. 6, although retail stores aren’t expected to open until 2020. Michigan joins California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Colorado, Nevada, Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine and Washington, D.C.

According to an article on The Hill, a website based in Washington, D.C., supporters are also planning in 2020 to try again in Ohio, Arizona and Florida, with plans already underway for initiatives to legalize medical marijuana in Mississippi, Nebraska and South Dakota. Earlier this month, voters in Missouri and Utah approved medical marijuana measures.

Oklahoma approved its own measure earlier this year, so now 33 states have approved medical marijuana.

The Hill article said “legalization backers have settled on a reliable formula that has generated success at the ballot box. The template includes language allowing adults to grow a small number of marijuana plants in their own home, banning advertising aimed at children and controlling potency of products like edibles that make it to market, allow counties and cities to ban pot shops even if it is legal statewide.”

The article also said a Pew Research Center survey conducted in October showed 62 percent of Americans favor legalization — including majorities among Millennials, members of Generation X and the Baby Boomer generation.

But not all states allow ballot measures, so legalization must go through legislatures.

Such is the case in Minnesota, where Gov.-elect Tim Walz said he favors legalization, although it’s unknown how legislators might perceive the issue.

In a sign of growing support, two pro-marijuana parties are expected to attain major party status in Minnesota when state election results are certified Nov. 27.

The parties — called the Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis Party and the Legal Marijuana Now Party — won at least 5 percent of the total vote in a statewide race, which this year was in the attorney general and auditor races, and won at least a one vote in each county.

According to Secretary of State office spokesman Ben Petok, candidates running on the ticket of a major party do not have to file petition signatures to get on the ballot in the next election, resulting in easier ballot access.

Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis candidate Noah Johnson got nearly 6 percent of the vote in the attorney general’s race earlier this month, while Michael Ford of the Legal Marijuana Now Party received more than 5 percent of the vote for state auditor.

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