Marijuana decriminalization bill advances through state Senate; medical marijuana dispensaries are opening
Last update: April 15, 2019
In a 37-10 vote, senators in North Dakota’s legislature passed legislation to replace criminal penalties for possession of up to half an ounce of marijuana with a civil fine of $250. The proposal, introduced by Fargo Republican Sen. Kristin Roers, gained traction as the local marijuana policy reform organization, Legalize ND, announced plans to pursue a 2020 ballot initiative to legalize marijuana for adult use.
Members of the North Dakota House narrowly defeated a similar decriminalization proposal earlier this year, but lawmakers are expected to reach an agreement on the details of this legislation and ultimately send it to Gov. Doug Burgum, who has expressed support for decriminalization in the past. The Senate-approved legislation would also establish a process for the state to study the possibility of legalizing marijuana for adult use. Advocates with Legalize ND say that passage of this law will not deter them from efforts to put a legalization measure on the ballot in 2020.
Earlier in March of this year, the first state-licensed dispensary opened in North Dakota, and three additional dispensaries are expected to begin sales soon. In total, state laws permits up to eight dispensaries. Two cultivation facilities have also been licensed.
After a disappointing defeat at the ballot in 2018, local advocates with Legalize ND are gearing up again for another effort to legalize marijuana for adult use in the 2020 election. North Dakotans voted last November to defeat Measure 2, a ballot initiative that would have legalized marijuana for adults and allowed for the sealing of records for individuals with prior marijuana offenses.
Decriminalization and prohibition
North Dakota has some of the harshest marijuana laws in the country. First offense possession of even a single joint is punishable by up to a year in prison and a fine of up to $2,000.
These severe penalties disproportionately affect racial minorities. A 2013 study by the American Civil Liberties Union found that although blacks and whites use marijuana at nearly identical rates, blacks in North Dakota are 4.4 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession.
Please take a moment to send a letter to your legislators asking them to reduce the penalty for possession of marijuana to a civil fine or asking them to end marijuana prohibition entirely.
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If you support reform and are a medical professional, a seriously ill patient who might benefit from medical marijuana, a law enforcement official, a clergy member, or a member of the legal community, or you know someone else that is, please email firstname.lastname@example.org to see how you can be of special help. Please include your address or nine-digit zip code.