Great news! In a 37-10 vote, senators in North Dakota’s legislature passed legislation last Thursday to replace criminal penalties for possession of up to half an ounce of marijuana with a civil fine of $250. The proposal, introduced by Fargo Republican Sen. Kristin Roers, gained traction as the local marijuana policy reform organization, Legalize ND, announced plans to pursue a 2020 ballot initiative to legalize marijuana for adult use.
Members of the North Dakota House narrowly defeated a similar decriminalization proposal earlier this year, but lawmakers are expected to reach an agreement on the details of this legislation and ultimately send it to Gov. Doug Burgum, who has expressed support for decriminalization in the past.
The bill would also establish a process for the state to study the possibility of legalizing marijuana for adult use. Advocates with Legalize ND say that passage of this law will not deter them from efforts to put a legalization measure on the ballot in 2020.
It’s encouraging to see state lawmakers acknowledging the harms of marijuana prohibition and taking steps to end arrests for low-level possession offenses. There is more work to be done, but thanks to the tireless work of local advocates, we are finally seeing significant progress in the North Dakota Legislature.