North Dakota lawmakers sink recreational marijuana legalization bill

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North Dakota’s Senate overwhelmingly defeated a bill to legalize recreational marijuana, ending reform efforts in that state for the year.

The Senate defeated House Bill 1420 by a 37-10 vote after only 30 minutes of debate, according to the Bismarck Tribune.

House lawmakers in February passed the bill by a 56-38 margin.

Rep. Jason Dockter, a Bismarck Republican, sponsored the adult-use legalization bill in an effort to preempt what likely will be a more liberal citizen-initiated measure on the ballot in 2022.

Passage of the bill through the state’s conservative, Republican-controlled Senate would have been considered a surprise.

Still, there is a sense of the inevitable, given that residents of neighboring South Dakota approved both medical and recreational marijuana during the Nov. 3 election – as well as the overall momentum for legalization.

Residents in neighboring Montana also approved adult-use legalization during last November’s election.

Meanwhile, Minnesota has an existing medical marijuana program, although current efforts to approve recreational legalization there face an uphill battle.

“Is it better to let it happen as it likely will eventually, or should we provide some guideposts which would contain its evolution?” Sen. Judy Lee, a Republican from West Fargo, said, according to the Bismarck Tribune.

“North Dakota is surrounded by three states and Canada who have opened up their marijuana laws, and being an island of resistance is probably unsustainable.”

North Dakota voters rejected a recreational marijuana initiative in 2018.

Efforts to place an adult-use initiative on the ballot in 2020 were stymied by the difficulty of collecting signatures during the coronavirus pandemic.