North Dakota Senators Advance House-Passed Marijuana Legalization Bill

MJ moment

A North Dakota Senate committee on Monday advanced a bill to legalize marijuana in the state—but members did so without a recommendation on whether the legislature should pass or defeat it. Lawmakers on the panel said the reason they were moving the House-passed legislation forward wasn’t because they necessarily want to create a regulated cannabis industry. Rather, members emphasized that they are taking “preventative” action to get ahead of a more far-reaching legalization initiative that activists are working to place before voters on the 2022 ballot. Rep. Jason Dockter (R) is sponsoring the proposal, which would allow adults 21 and older to possess and purchase up to one ounce of cannabis for personal use. Home cultivation would be prohibited, however. That’s one example of how the bill is intentionally more restrictive than the activist-led initiative. The Senate Human Services Committee advanced Dockter’s legislation in a 5-1 vote, without a recommendation. First, members voted on whether to move it with a do-pass recommendation, but they came up tied, 3-3. Another vote on a do-not-pass recommendation was also split. The panel held its first hearing on the reform measure last week. It has now been referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration before heading to the floor of the body. “I think we need to look at this really carefully and try to figure out what’s best for North Dakota. And, no, I don’t like to be threatened by the fact there’s an initiated measure out there,” Human Services Chair Judy Lee (R) said. “But the reality is that it’s there, and we can’t ignore that fact.” She called the measure “preventative maintenance” and likened the process of enacting a marijuana policy change to surgery, saying “nobody wants to have surgery, but frankly sometimes we need to do it in order…

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