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North Dakota marijuana legalization group changes plans

North Dakota marijuana legalization group changes plans

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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 Dec. 5, 2019.

Supporters of a ballot measure to legalize marijuana in North Dakota are delaying their effort to the next election cycle.

Legalize ND posted to its social media accounts on Thursday that due to the coronavirus pandemic, the group will aim for the June 2022 primary ballot instead of the Nov. 3 general election.

"Due to the virus all of our major avenues for signature collection have been cancelled or indefinitely postponed, and going door to door is not safe for both those knocking and those getting knocked," read the group's Facebook post. "Businesses will continue to collect, but we don't want to create another vector for the coronavirus. As a result, at this time if something major doesn't change we will not be able to make the 2020 ballot."

David Owen, the measure committee's chairman, did not immediately return two phone messages seeking comment.

The group's proposed statutory measure needs at least 13,452 qualified signatures by a July 6 submission deadline to be placed on the November ballot.

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The group had collected about 11% of those signature as of Feb. 9, according to Legalize ND's website.

A similar measure failed in the 2018 general election by a margin of 41% to 59%.

North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger said measure supporters have one year from when they were approved for circulation in December 2019 to gather signatures.

"If we don't get anything from them by then, then ... they would have to start all over again," he said Friday.

Petitions can be signed only in the physical presence of a circulator, he said. 

Another group also is seeking to legalize marijuana in the state, but through the constitution rather than state law. Measure committee chairwoman Jody Vetter said the group is holding off gathering signatures until May and will assess its petitions for signature counts so far. The group has no plans to delay its effort, she said. 

The Legislature's interim Judiciary Committee is studying the potential impacts of legalizing marijuana in the state, with a report to come later this year.

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

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