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North Dakota Group Files Recreational Cannabis Legalization Ballot Measure

Earlier this week, a group in North Dakota filed a ballot measure petition to legalize recreational marijuana in the state. The measure would permit individuals aged 21 years and older to buy products from registered marijuana establishments in the state and possess small amounts of marijuana.

For the measure to qualify for the November ballot, the group will have to collect 15,582 signatures from eligible voters by July 8, 2024.

In a release, the New Economic Frontier stated that the proposal would promote economic growth in North Dakota and reduce the burden on the criminal justice system. This committee is sponsoring the proposal. The state’s attorney general and secretary of state are expected to draft petition titles to be presented to the committee no later than April 25, 2024.

Steve Bakken, chair of the New Economic Frontier, stated that marijuana legalization was coming and noted that the measure had been carefully crafted to make sure it fit what the community really needed. According to this committee, the marijuana industry in America is expected to bring in more than $38 billion in revenue this year. The industry also supports 400,000 jobs, with the committee noting that the legalized marijuana industry offers funding for local programs and schools in large and small communities while also growing tax revenue.

Legalization also diversifies income streams and encourages economic development, which the committee notes would contribute to North Dakota’s long-term prosperity. Those in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana also say that legalization allows law enforcement to focus on more violent or serious crimes, which saves taxpayer money and improves public safety.

Statements by the officials from the state’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation support this as they note that violence linked to marijuana cultivation is rare, unlike other illegal substances such as cocaine and heroin. Mark Friese, a criminal defense attorney who is supporting the measure, stated that it was a sensible and conservative approach to legalization. Others have also argued that marijuana legalization would eliminate barriers for individuals with medical conditions who can’t access medical marijuana as well as veterans.

Additionally, adult-use legalization would ensure marijuana products are regulated by screening them for contaminants and testing their potency.

This isn’t the first time the state has taken steps toward marijuana legalization. In 2016, voters in the state passed Measure 5, which allowed a medical marijuana program to be established in North Dakota. One year later, the state’s legislature approved changes to the initiative and eliminated a provision that afforded medical users’ permission to grow cannabis. Previous efforts to legalize recreational cannabis in 2018 and 2022 failed.

Marijuana industry actors such as Aurora Cannabis Inc. (NASDAQ: ACB) (TSX: ACB) based in other jurisdictions with regulated cannabis markets will be keeping an eye on the developments in North Dakota to see if this also state ends prohibition this year.

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