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North Dakota marijuana legalization group will aim for November, not June ballot

North Dakota marijuana legalization group will aim for November, not June ballot

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Jody Vetter stands near the south entrance to the state Capitol in Bismarck last July. Vetter chairs a sponsoring committee for a constitutional initiated measure to legalize marijuana. 

Advocates seeking to plant marijuana legalization in North Dakota's constitution have shifted their focus from the June primary ballot to the November general election.

Petitions with at least 26,904 signatures of qualified electors would have been due Monday to Secretary of State Al Jaeger for the constitutional initiative to be part of the June 9 statewide primary.

Sponsoring committee chairwoman Jody Vetter, of Bismarck, said the ND for Freedom of Cannabis Act group is still collecting signatures and is now aiming for the Nov. 3 general election.

The primary election was an "initial goal," she said. The group was trying to "avoid any confusion" with a similar, statutory measure potentially being on the same ballot, she said.

A statutory measure creates or amends a state law by a public vote. A constitutional initiative amends the state constitution, also by public vote.

Vetter said her group has about 18,000 signatures so far, with a goal of 30,000 to 32,000 signatures.

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"We're grassroots, all volunteer, so we all have other jobs and stuff like that, and winter is a lot slower in North Dakota and it really just takes a little longer to get 30,000 signatures across the state; but we do have 100 petitioners and 50 business sponsors, so I'm confident we'll get it done," said Vetter, who with her husband, David, owns a sewer and drain cleaning business in Bismarck.

Legalize ND petitioners are gathering signatures for the statutory measure to legalize marijuana. That group needs at least 13,452 qualified signatures. A similar measure failed in the 2018 general election by a margin of 41% to 59%.

Both groups' petitions are due July 6 to Jaeger.

The Legislature's interim Judiciary Committee is studying the potential impacts in North Dakota of legalizing marijuana.

North Dakota voters in 2016 approved a measure for medical marijuana, which is now available to qualifying patients.

The only measures so far approved for the 2020 ballot are two referred constitutional measures from the 2019 Legislature. One would increase the membership and term limits of North Dakota's State Board of Higher Education. The other would involve the Legislature in approving initiated constitutional amendments.

Reach Jack Dura at 701-250-8225 or jack.dura@bismarcktribune.com.

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