BISMARCK —North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger declared that a sufficient number of valid signatures were submitted to place a measure on the November 2022 ballot that would legalize cannabis.
More than 25,000 signatures in support of the legalization petition were submitted earlier this summer. Of those signatures, the Secretary of State determined that 23,368 of those were valid, clearing the ballot qualification threshold of 15,582 signatures for statutory measures.
“This measure is nothing like the last one,” says David Owens, chairman of New Approach, the group the led the petitioning effort.
Owens says that the language for this measure was based on House Bill 1420, which was approved by the North Dakota House of Representatives in 2021. It passed legislative review in the 2021 session, it was reviewed by the North Dakota Legal Council, a state office that provides legal advice and counsel on legislative matters, and two North Dakota Attorneys.
“This is a measure for North Dakotans, written by North Dakotans,” Owen said. “It is a conservative measure and gives North Dakotans access to regulated and controlled marijuana.” I f enacted by voters this year, Measure 1 will:
1 –Permit adults 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of cannabis and small quantities of cannabis products, such as concentrates and infused products;
2 — Allow adults to cultivate up to three cannabis plants in a secured location on their property;
3 — Establish a comprehensive regulatory system for registered cannabis businesses that may produce and sell cannabis to adults;
4 — Require cannabis products to be tested by state-approved laboratories; and
5 –Prohibit the public consumption of cannabis.
Mark Friese, an attorney and former police officer who serves as the campaign’s treasurer, says he and other supporters of Measure 1 are prepared to make a strong case to voters.
“I served as a police officer in Bismarck for over five years and have defended those accused of marijuana offenses for the last twenty years. There is no public safety benefit from arresting adults for small amounts of marijuana,” said Friese. “It is a waste of taxpayer resources and a distraction from serious public safety concerns. Cannabis causes far less harm than alcohol. Many people find therapeutic benefits from it. The government shouldn’t be in the business of punishing adults who use cannabis responsibly.”
Representative Matthew Ruby, a Republican state legislator and member of the campaign’s sponsoring committee, added, “Measure 1 is a conservative approach to cannabis legalization based on legislation passed by the North Dakota House of Representatives. It balances personal freedom with personal responsibility. Adults will no longer be punished for using cannabis — but only if they do so safely and responsibly. As voters have a chance to review the measure in detail, I’m confident a majority will agree this is the right approach for North Dakota.”
Petitioners gathered the 25,700 signatures in about 76 days, which most acknowledge is an amazing feat. “We got at least 300 signatures every day from all across the state,” Owens said. “The short time it took to get the signatures and the high validity rate tells me that there is a huge groundswell of support for this measure.”
Owens believes that one of the big reasons for support of the measure is that, despite the voters approving a measure in 2016 legalizing medical marijuana, “patient access is still difficult for most people in North Dakota”
“I get several phone calls every week from people who, despite getting qualifying certification, still cannot get a doctor to prescribe or advise them on the use of medical cannabis products” says Owens.
The measure, which will be titled “Initiated Statutory Measure No. 1”, will be the only voter initiative to appear on North Dakotans’ ballot this year.