After a House-passed bill to legalize marijuana in North Dakota was rejected by the Senate last week, some senators hatched a new plan to advance the issue by referring it to voters on the 2022 ballot. While their resolution advanced through a key committee earlier this week, the full Senate blocked it on Thursday.
Despite the fact that the deadline to introduce new legislation this session has passed, the Senate Delayed Bills Committee on Tuesday used its unique authority to advance the referendum proposal. The five-member panel cleared the proposed constitutional amendment for a first reading on the floor. But on Thursday, the full body voted 26-21 against referring the measure to a policy committee, effectively killing it.
The text of the proposal that would have gone before voters simply states: “The legislative assembly shall authorize and regulate the manufacture, sales, and use of adult-use cannabis in the state.”
It would have been up to lawmakers to craft legislation to enact legalization in a following session if voters signed off on the general idea at the ballot box.
The new legislative move came as activists with the group North Dakota Cannabis Caucus are collecting signatures to qualify a constitutional amendment legalizing cannabis for the 2022 ballot. A separate group, Legalize ND, is also planning to push for a legalization ballot measure, though details of that initiative are yet to be seen.
Given that, if the legislature had approved the latest proposal from Sen. Dick Dever (R), North Dakota could have see as many as three legalization questions on their ballot next year—a situation that would create significant complications for activists as voters attempt to choose their preferred option, potentially splitting support such that no measure receives a majority.
Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner (R) said that lawmakers are concerned that a