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North Dakota Senate rejects introduction of recreational marijuana measure
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North Dakota Senate rejects introduction of recreational marijuana measure

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North Dakota's Senate in a procedural vote Thursday sunk a late proposal to put legalized recreational marijuana on the ballot next year.

The Senate Delayed Bills Committee on Tuesday had approved 3-2 the introduction of a constitutional resolution by Sen. Dick Dever, R-Bismarck, that would put to voters in June 2022 whether to legalize the drug for recreational use. 

Senate conducts a procedural vote on a late proposal to put legalizing recreational marijuana on the ballot next year

The resolution likely would have been set for a hearing before the Senate Human Services Committee. But the Senate in a 21-26 vote on Thursday effectively killed the measure by rejecting the Delayed Bills Committee's report.

"As far as I understand, the body decided that we didn't need to have a delayed bill dealing with a constitutional measure for recreational cannabis," said Senate Assistant Majority Leader Jerry Klein, R-Fessenden, who chairs the Delayed Bills Committee.

The Senate last week soundly defeated a bill to legalize but restrict recreational marijuana. The 50-page bill, which passed the House, came as an effort by lawmakers to head off a proposed citizen-initiated measure to legalize marijuana through the state constitution, as South Dakota voters did in 2020. Montana voters also approved recreational marijuana last year.

Dever said he introduced the resolution because he'd prefer the public vote yes or no on the idea of recreational marijuana with a directive to the Legislature, if passed.

The proposed measure sought to ask voters whether "the legislative assembly shall authorize and regulate the manufacture, sale, and use of adult-use cannabis in the state."

Dever said he was disappointed in the Senate's rejection.

"I have faith in the people on the ballot and for giving them that choice, but I also respect the views of my colleagues in the Senate," he told the Tribune.

Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson, said "it looks like our body says we've had enough." He doesn't expect the Senate to reconsider its action on Monday. 

Two groups have been pushing ballot measures in recent years to legalize recreational marijuana through either state law or the constitution.

North Dakota voters in 2018 defeated a ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana, with 59% opposed. Efforts to put the question on the ballot failed in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic inhibiting signature gathering. Marijuana remains federally illegal.

Reach Jack Dura at 701-223-8482 or jack.dura@bismarcktribune.com.

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