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Legalize ND submits legal marijuana petition to secretary of state for approval

Legalize ND submits legal marijuana petition to secretary of state for approval

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State elections specialist Lee Ann Oliver, left, looks over paperwork for a proposed statutory initiated measure to legalize recreational marijuana in North Dakota, while David Owen, chairman of Legalize ND, looks on Thursday. The Grand Forks-based group needs approval before gathering petition signatures to try to get the measure on the ballot.

A group that hopes to legalize recreational marijuana in North Dakota has submitted language for its proposed statutory initiated measure to the secretary of state for approval.

David Owen, chairman of Legalize ND, submitted the required paperwork Thursday to Lee Ann Oliver, an election specialist with the secretary of state's office.

Secretary of State Al Jaeger and Attorney General Wayne Stenjehem now have up to seven days to review the proposed measure and decide whether to approve it for circulation so the group can begin to gather signatures.

Legalize ND would need to gather at least 13,452 valid signatures by July 6, 2020, to get the measure on the ballot for the 2020 general election in November.

Owen, of Grand Forks, said Legalize ND hopes to gather more than 18,000 signatures to be on the safe side.

The group gathered enough signatures to put a legalization measure, Measure 3, on the ballot in 2018, but that effort failed 41% to 59%. 

Measure 3 would have legalized recreational marijuana for anyone over 21, as well as expunge the criminal records of those with previous marijuana convictions.

Those opposed at the time said the measure was poorly written and lacking rules and regulations.

To avoid that same criticism this time around, Owen said, he had the language written by West Fargo attorney Scott Brand, who spent over 100 hours working on the proposed measure. It also was sent twice to the Legislative Council, the nonpartisan legal and fiscal agency that aids lawmakers.

The proposed 37-page measure sets up the framework for a three-person marijuana control commission in charge of licensing and regulating marijuana businesses in the state. It also would allow municipalities to further regulate the location and operation of a retail marijuana establishment.

It would allow any person over the age of 21 to use, possess, and transport up to 2 ounces of prepared marijuana, but it would ban home growing of the plant.

It sets a 10% excise tax on marijuana products sold, in addition to any sales tax collected. Excise taxes collected would go to a marijuana regulation fund, which would cover the cost of running the program.

Any extra tax revenue over the cost of running the program would be sent to six different state funds, including 50% to the general fund and 10% each to five others.

The proposed measure also includes a provision that would seal the records of a person convicted of a marijuana offense under previous law if he or she does not have a subsequent charge for one year. 

Owen hopes the changes from Measure 3 will lead to success at the ballot box next year.

"We've done it before. We know how to do it again," Owen said of gathering signatures. "It's going to be pounding the pavement, hitting the streets -- same as always."

Another initiated measure that would enshrine cannabis in the state's constitution is making the rounds across the state.

Jody Vetter, chairwoman of ND for Freedom of Cannabis Act, said the group is "roughly about halfway" to the 30,000 signatures it's seeking to gather by Feb. 10, the deadline to get on the June 2020 primary election ballot. The group needs twice as many signatures as Owen's group since it's an initiated constitutional measure, with 26,904 signatures required.

Vetter said the group has "a lot of grassroots support," with about 100 volunteer signature-gatherers across the state. She said they also have the support of medical marijuana patients who want to grow their own plants, which is not allowed under current law.

Reach Bilal Suleiman at 701-250-8261 or Bilal.Suleiman@bismarcktribune.com

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