With election season fast approaching, the medical cannabis industry is paying particularly close attention to Ohio and Massachusetts, where efforts to legalize MMJ are gaining steam.
But the next state to approve medical marijuana could be one that currently isn’t even on the MMJ industry’s radar screen.
A Democratic lawmaker has submitted an initiative to legalize the possession, use and distribution of cannabis for medical reasons in North Dakota. Sure, getting Ohio or Massachusetts on board with MMJ would be a much bigger coup, given the potential market size and political influence of those states. But any state that adopts MMJ laws – no matter its size – represents a win for the industry.
Observers say we could see a change on the national level once medical marijuana is legalized in half of all states in the U.S. Currently, 16 states plus Washington DC allow residents to use cannabis for medical purposes. Connecticut is set to become the 17th state with MMJ laws, meaning just eight more states need to legalize medical marijuana to hit the milestone of 25. Each of those eight states are equally important, no matter their size or influence.
It remains to be seen how much support there is for medical cannabis in North Dakota. One of its neighbors, South Dakota, has rejected MMJ initiatives twice, while another – Montana – already allows the use of medical marijuana.
In North Dakota, the secretary of state must first give organizers the green light to begin gathering signatures. Supporters will then need to get enough people to sign the petition to qualify it for the November ballot, and then voters would have to approve the initiative for it to become law. In other words, there’s a long way to go. But it’s an encouraging sign nonetheless, as it furthers the MMJ debate.