Republican-led effort to enact legalization law through the legislature is defeated as activists look ahead to the 2022 ballot
Last update: April 15, 2021
Earlier this year, North Dakota lawmakers proposed a bill to legalize marijuana for adults. The initiative was led by a group of legislators who said they personally oppose legalization but wanted to see a more restrictive law enacted before advocates could pass a measure through the 2022 ballot. After clearing the House, however, the legislation was defeated in the Senate. Lawmakers also attempted to pass a bill that would put their own version of legalization on the ballot in 2022, but that came up short, too.
After the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted efforts to gather signatures for a 2020 marijuana legalization initiative, activists are moving ahead with a renewed campaign to end marijuana prohibition through a voter referendum in 2022. The group submitted petition language to the North Dakota Secretary of State in early January. The current initiative, identical to the 2020 version, would amend the North Dakota Constitution to legalize marijuana for adults 21 and older and will require roughly 27,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the 2022 ballot.
State senators also killed HB 1201, which would have reduced the maximum fine for marijuana possession from $1,000 to $50.
North Dakota becomes 25th state to eliminate jail time for low-level marijuana possession!
With Gov. Doug Burgum’s signature on House Bill 1050, North Dakota removed jail time penalties for adults 21 and older who possess up to half an ounce of marijuana in May 2019. The final legislation was the product of a conference committee made up of members from the House and Senate of North Dakota’s Republican-controlled state legislature.
North Dakota’s new law went into effect on August 1 last year. It reclassifies possession of up to a half ounce of marijuana as an infraction punishable by no jail time and a maximum fine of $1,000. Previously, it was a misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail in addition to a fine. The bill also reclassifies penalties for possession offenses involving amounts greater than a half ounce, and it calls on the Legislative Assembly to study adult-use legalization. A detailed summary of HB 1050 is available here.