A bill to legalize marijuana in North Dakota that’s being sponsored by a Republican lawmaker who personally opposes the policy change advanced through a House committee on Wednesday.
The legislation, HB 1420, would allow adults 21 and older to possess and purchase up to one ounce of cannabis for personal use, but home cultivation would not be allowed.
While some advocates see that as a step in the right direction, the motivation behind the measure’s introduction seems to be to preempt attempts by activists to enact a more far-reaching proposal via the ballot.
The House Human Services Committee narrowly approved the bill, sponsored by Rep. Jason Dockter (R), in a 7-6 vote, with one abstention. It’s expected to next go to the Appropriations Committee before potentially receiving floor consideration. This development comes days after a separate House panel cleared a bill to expand the state’s existing marijuana decriminalization law.
The legalization legislation calls for legal cannabis sales to begin on July 1, 2022.
Members of the panel accepted the legislation with a series of amendments, many of which were technical in nature. The main revision adopts regulations from the state’s medical cannabis program to allow existing dispensaries to sell products for adult use. People aged 21 and older would be able to purchase up to 21 grams of marijuana twice a month, but they couldn’t possess more than an ounce at a time.
Definitional changes were made for the term “marijuana,” while “hashish” was removed from the proposal. The definition of THC was revised to exclude that derived from industrial hemp. Penalties for underage possession were also revised, making it an infraction for a person under 21 to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and a class B misdemeanor to possess more than an ounce but less than two ounces.
According to the Associated Press, separate legislation is being prepared that would establish the tax structure for a recreational marijuana market. It remains to be seen when that will be filed or whether it will be incorporated into the existing bill as a committee or floor amendment.
During Wednesday’s meeting, certain legislators expressed skepticism about enacting adult-use legalization but said that they would prefer for the legislature to set the rules, rather than having legalization approved by voters via an initiated constitutional amendment through the ballot.
A separate resolution to put the issue before voters as a referendum was rejected by the House Judiciary Committee earlier this week.