North Dakota: Another US State Headed for Cannabis Legalisation?

24th February 2021

North Dakota’s House of Representatives has become the latest to approve a measure for cannabis reforms in the USA. If enacted into law, the bill would introduce a legal recreational cannabis market and legal use for over 21’s. However, critics point out that the bill would make for the strictest medical cannabis legislation in the US.

Cannabis reforms are increasingly on the rise in the USA, though the drug remains illegal for both medical and recreational use at the federal level. Recreational cannabis is now legal in 14 states, plus the District of Columbia (DC). However, a number of states -including North Dakota – appear to be seriously considering legalisation.

This week, the measure (House Bill 1420) was advanced through the House of Representatives in North Dakota, ready to face the Senate for consideration. The bill passed with a vote of 56-38.

While the bill has been backed by a range of Representatives, the Grand Forks Herald reports that the sponsor of the bill may come as somewhat of a surprise: Rep. Jason Dockter – a Republican who has reported never having used cannabis and believes the drug should remain illegal.

Despite being generally against recreational cannabis legalisation, Rep. Dockter reportedly believes that if lawmakers don’t do it, then the public will. Maybe that explains why, under House Bill 1420, North Dakota’s legal cannabis system would be the strictest in the country.

If the Bill was enacted into State law:

  • Adults ages 21-and-over would be permitted to possess up to 1 oz/28.35g of cannabis.
  • Cannabis may only be used in private residences and on private property – using cannabis in the presence of under-21s would be illegal.
  • The cultivation and sale of cannabis would be regulated by the state Health Council.
  • Home cultivation would not be permitted.
  • The state Department of Health would be able to register up to 7 cannabis manufacturing facilities and 18 dispensaries.

The bill also specifies that employers would still be able to discipline workers for cannabis use or the breaching of internal drug policies.

Medical cannabis was legalised in North Dakota in 2016 as voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure calling for medical access. On the other hand, voters also rejected a 2018 measure that would have legalised the recreational use of the drug.

An increasing number of states are continuing to embrace significant cannabis reforms, meaning that North Dakota may soon be surrounded by cannabis-legal states.

Both Montana and South Dakota have already approved the legalisation of recreational cannabis, with Minnesota also taking steps toward legalisation. However, South Dakota is facing legal challengers following the decision to overturn the voter-approved measure to legalise recreational cannabis in November.

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