The Peace Garden State has made peace with cannabis by eliminating criminal penalties for the possession of up to a half ounce by adults (21 and over). Gov. Doug Burgum signed HB 1050 into law on May 9. The civil penalty is now a maximum fine of $1,000.
Possession of more than 14 grams has been reduced to a misdemeanor from a felony. Possession of 15 to 500 grams is a Class B punishable by maximums of 30 days in jail and/or a $1,500 fine. Possession of more than 500 grams is a Class A punishable by maximums of a year and/or a $3,000 fine. Possession of paraphernalia is an infraction. The bill also signals a move in the direction of recreational legalization by recommending that the legislature “consider studying the implications of the potential adoption” of such a measure.
Now, half the country has either legalized or decriminalized marijuana.
What’s surprising is Burgum is a Republican. “It’s very encouraging to see a conservative state like North Dakota acknowledge and rectify the injustice of jailing people for possession of small amounts of marijuana,” say Marijuana Policy Project deputy director Matthew Schweich. “Lawmakers can no longer ignore public support for marijuana policy reform, which is growing quickly in every part of the country.”
North Dakota, which voted in favor of medical access in 2016, now joins 14 other decrim states. They are: Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Rhode Island. Ten states have removed criminal penalties altogether. Now, half the country has either legalized or decriminalized marijuana.
A recreational legalization ballot initiative, Measure 3, failed in North Dakota by a 57%-43% vote in 2018.
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Author: Steve Bloom