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Signature shortfall sets back North Dakota marijuana legalization group

Signature shortfall sets back North Dakota marijuana legalization group

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Jody Vetter is an advocate for legalizing marijuana in North Dakota through the state's constitution.

Supporters of legalizing marijuana through North Dakota's constitution are looking to restart a proposed ballot measure after coming up short on signatures.

Petitioners had a year to gather and submit at least 26,904 valid signatures of North Dakota voters to Secretary of State Al Jaeger. Wednesday was the final deadline. Petitioners missed earlier deadlines to make this year's June and November election ballots. They had continued to gather signatures, hoping for a June 2022 vote.

Measure chairwoman Jody Vetter said the group gathered just short of 24,000 signatures and wouldn't be submitting petitions.

Vetter, whose family runs a sewer and drain cleaning company in Bismarck, said supporters are planning to start again with an identical proposal for 2022. They're already arranging a sponsoring committee, she said.

She attributed the shortcoming to the coronavirus pandemic, which emerged in March in North Dakota and inhibited signature gathering for months.

The pandemic has limited or quashed other measure groups' efforts to gather signatures, including Legalize ND, which is seeking to legalize marijuana by statute and looking at a June 2022 vote. Petitioners have a December deadline to submit 13,542 signatures.

The Legislature's interim Judiciary Committee is studying the potential impacts of marijuana legalization in North Dakota. Vetter said she still sees value in the study, which will produce a report this fall.

Petitions submitted for sweeping North Dakota election changes
Some North Dakota ballot measure groups readjust to 2022

The November ballot will have at most just one initiated measure. Supporters of a proposed constitutional initiative for sweeping election changes submitted petitions this month to Jaeger, who has until Aug. 10 to review more than 36,000 signatures. The measure needs 26,904 valid signatures.

The 2019 Legislature approved two constitutional measures for November voters.

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 constitutional initiatives.

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

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