“It’s Time:” Effort to Legalize Recreational Marijuana in ND Underway

They think it has a good chance after seeing the success a 2016 medicinal marijuana bill had at the ballot box

FARGO, ND — An effort to legalize recreational marijuana in North Dakota is underway.

The campaign manager for the bill said they have at least 30 sponsors.

Voters in 2018 could decide if North Dakota becomes the first state in the Midwest to legalize recreational marijuana.

“Prohibition didn’t work for alcohol, it doesn’t work for this,” said Josh Dryer, campaign manager for the Recreational Marijuana/Expungement Bill.

Dryer, along with at least 30 other sponsors, are getting ready to start collecting signatures.

Since the medicinal marijuana bill passed in North Dakota in 2016 with a nearly two thirds vote, he thinks recreational use has a good chance.

“In the Midwest, we’re probably the ‘reddest’ state,” Dryer said. “If we get it passed here, it’s only a matter of time before the other states around us follow suit. If North Dakota legalizes it, everyone else is going to in my opinion.”

When medicinal marijuana passed, it was expected to be available in 30 days.

The state health department doesn’t expect it to be available for another year: that’s two years from when voters passed the bill.

Rilie Ray Morgan, Co-Chairman of the medicinal bill, expects recreational to run into similar obstacles.

“There’s going to be some issues that will have to be worked out with the state,” Morgan said. “Who’s gonna be able to sell it, licensing, taxing, that kind of thing. Is it going to speed up things for medicinal? I don’t know. That’s hard to say.”

One of the goals of the legalization is to help those who are charged over the use of marijuana.

“We don’t release anyone from jail, we expunge the charges,” Dryer added.

State’s Attorney Birch Burdick told us penalties for recreational use are relatively small, but he believes a new law could impact ongoing court cases.

“When a law has changed and a prosecution is ongoing, we will try and conform the ongoing case to the new law,” Burdick said. “If they’re looking to expunge and the legislature passes that, then we’ll just follow whatever the law is.”

Dryer said they saw what happened with the medicinal marijuana bill and took steps to avoid long delays if the bill passes in 2018.

“This is a non-partisan issue,” he said. “There are people on both sides of the aisle that want this, there’s people on both sides of the aisle that don’t. From national polling, our polling, it looks like people want it. It’s time.”

For now, they’re just focused on getting this measure on the ballot.

Secretary of State officials tell us they’re expecting a finalized draft of the bill by early next week.

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