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North Dakota state Capitol

The North Dakota state Capitol in Bismarck is offset by flowers in full bloom in June 2018.

Efforts are underway to plant marijuana legalization in North Dakota's Constitution.

North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger received a petition late Monday from a group seeking to put the issue to voters in November 2020. Jaeger may approve the petition title as soon as May 28 and the initiative would need about 27,000 signatures to advance to the ballot.

John Bailey, of Courtenay, is chairman of the sponsoring committee. He said Monday he's been involved in the marijuana legalization effort since the summer of 2018, pointing to what he calls medical and economical benefits from marijuana.

Bailey watched efforts for marijuana decriminalization in the recent legislative session, calling himself the "very first self-proclaimed cannabis lobbyist registered in North Dakota." Lawmakers took different approaches to decriminalization, Bailey said. 

"You can't blanket the Legislature," he said. "There's some of them that went above and beyond and some that really don't know but want to do the right thing and there's others out there that I feel are completely against it. You can't change their mind, no way, no how."

Bailey called the initiative an "all grassroots" effort. He said the measure seeks constitutional placement after criticism of lawmakers for amending the 2016 statutory initiative that brought medical marijuana. Only a vote of the people may amend the Constitution.

The proposed measure provides for the legal cultivation, possession and consumption of marijuana, for lawmakers to establish a regulatory system and for residents to petition for public sale of marijuana.

"We'll see if we can get this on the ballot," Bailey said. 

Measure 3 in the 2018 general election also sought to legalize marijuana, but failed. 

Dave Owen, who spearheaded Measure 3, said his group is pursuing a statutory initiative for marijuana legalization for 2020, with an attorneys' first draft recently completed.

"We are still 110% doing a ballot initiative," Owen said. 

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

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