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Will North Dakota Legalize Marijuana for Adult Use?


North Dakota is a state that flies under the radar sometimes, but when it comes to cannabis law reform, activists in the state are making a big move. Last week Legalize ND turned in almost 19,000 signatures in an effort to get recreational marijuana legalization on the statewide ballot this fall. To succeed, 13,452 of those signatures need to be deemed valid by the North Dakota Secretary of State’s office.

The measure itself would legalize the possession, sale and use of marijuana for anyone 21 years of age and older, as well as expunge previous marijuana convictions from criminal records of adults in the state. Beyond that, the measure is scant on details.

“We leave our bill wide open so the legislature can do their job — regulations, taxes, zoning, whatever,” said Cole Haymond, an adviser to the Legalize ND campaign. “This bill is by far the most progressive yet most conservative marijuana legalization bill that will be on any ballot across the country.”

According to a statement from the North Dakota Secretary of State’s office, they have 35 days – until August 13, 2018 – to review whether or not there are enough valid signatures for the measure to be placed on this year’s ballot.

“Grass-roots efforts like the one in North Dakota are inspiring important public dialogue about the benefits of adopting an alternative policy that treats marijuana more like alcohol,” said Mason Tvert of the Marijuana Policy Project. “It remains to be seen whether it will qualify for the ballot, but there is no doubt it has advanced the conversation and the movement toward ending marijuana prohibition, both in North Dakota and nationwide.”

Perhaps the best example of the momentum of marijuana law reform is the success it is having in states where you would least expect progress, states like Oklahoma and Texas and North Dakota. While it’s true that progress in these states still lags far behind progress in others, activists in these solidly “red” states have had a much tougher hill to climb.

North Dakota is a state that Donald Trump won by almost 36 percentage points in the 2016 Presidential election; that’s about as “red” as a state gets. Heck, even Mitt Romney won the state by 20 points over President Obama in 2012.

If marijuana legalization can succeed in a state like that, it can succeed anywhere.