It appears that it will be a little longer before adult-use cannabis is legal in North Dakota. That’s because the North Dakota State Senate recently voted against a bill that would have legalized marijuana for recreational use. What does this mean for the future of the North Dakota cannabis market? And what could it mean for cannabis operators in North Dakota? Keep reading this blog to learn more.
North Dakota State Senate Rejects Adult-Use Legalization of Cannabis
Marijuana reform efforts have been underway in North Dakota for quite some time. So far, however, those efforts to change existing laws that prohibit adult-use cannabis have come up short. The latest example is the recent vote by the North Dakota Senate. The ND Senate vote on a bill to legalize recreational marijuana was lopsided: 37-10 to defeat the proposed legislation, also known as House Bill 1420. Moreover, state senators only debated for a mere 30 minutes before casting their votes. This was not terribly surprising, especially given the composition of the ND Senate and the generally conservative politics of the state. During the brief debate over the proposed law, several Republican senators argued that increased use of marijuana would have negative consequences for young people who became addicted to the drug, as well as increasing the incidence of DUIs and traffic accidents.
While the North Dakota Senate was strongly against the push to legalize adult-use cannabis in the state, the North Dakota House was actually in favor of the idea. In February 2021, members of the ND State House passed a cannabis legalization bill by a vote of 56-38. Remarkably, that legalization measure had bipartisan support, with a Republican member of the House sponsoring the bill. That member, Rep. Jason Dockter, said that he supported the proposed legislation because he feared that “a more liberal citizen-initiated measure” might appear on the ballot in the 2022 election in the absence of action by state lawmakers now.
The legislation that was up for a vote in the North Dakota Senate would have limited the legal use of recreational marijuana to individuals 21 and older. The law also would have limited legal possession to a maximum of one (1) ounce of marijuana, restricted legal possession to private property, and prohibited individuals from growing marijuana at their residences. Additionally, the bill called for a total of just 18 dispensaries to be approved for state licenses.
Recreational Marijuana Could Be on North Dakota Ballot in 2022
At present, only medical cannabis is legal for purchase and use in North Dakota. So, now that the North Dakota Senate has defeated the most recent iteration of a recreational marijuana legalization bill, what happens next? It appears that the next realistic opportunity to legalize cannabis for recreational use in North Dakota will come in the 2022 election. The last time North Dakota voters had an opportunity to weigh in on adult-use legalization came in 2018, when they defeated a legalization measure by a 59-41 margin. If the results of cannabis reform measures in other states during the 2020 election are any indication, however, North Dakota’s prospects for recreational marijuana legalization this time appear quite strong.
In fact, many cannabis industry observers believe that it is just a matter of time before recreational cannabis is legalized for both sale and use in North Dakota. Experts point to North Dakota’s neighboring states – South Dakota on the southern border, Montana on the western border, and Minnesota on the eastern border – all of which have already legalized medical marijuana, while both South Dakota and Montana have also already legalized recreational marijuana. In fact, the November 2020 election saw residents in South Dakota and Montana enthusiastically approve measures to make adult-use cannabis legal. In addition to its neighboring states, North Dakota is also bordered in the north by Canada, where cannabis has been legal for both recreational and medical use since 2018.
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