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Group files paperwork to start petition process to change ND Constitution to allow recreational marijuana

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Ken Chase / WDAY2 / 2

BISMARCK — A group filed paperwork on Monday, May 20, to start a petition process to change the North Dakota Constitution to allow residents to legally grow and use any form of marijuana and to provide for state regulation of the sale of "any and all varieties" of marijuana.

John Bailey, of Courtney, N.D., chairman of the sponsoring committee for the petition drive, said Monday afternoon that "personal freedom" is at the core of the proposal.

He added that marijuana, also known as cannabis, deserves more study and research.

"It has a wide range of applications," Bailey said, adding that changing the state constitution to legalize growing and using marijuana would offer a new avenue of income to the state and save taxpayers money by reducing the cost of incarcerating individuals convicted of crimes involving marijuana.

"That's going to open up a lot of savings there, just in prisoner care," Bailey said.

In November 2018, Measure 3, an initiated statewide measure that would have legalized recreational marijuana in North Dakota, was defeated with about 40 percent of voters saying yes and about 60 percent saying no.

That measure would have legalized recreational marijuana for anyone over 21, as well as expunge the criminal records of those with previous marijuana convictions.

Opponents of the measure said it was poorly written and lacked rules and regulations.

Medical marijuana remains legal in North Dakota for certain residents with qualifying medical conditions.

North Dakotans voted in 2016 to approve a ballot measure to legalize medical marijuana, though the Legislature later rewrote what they called an unworkable law.

The state's first dispensary for medical marijuana opened in Fargo earlier this year.

Bailey, who described himself as retired from doing construction work, said giving constitutional protection to marijuana will give North Dakotans a cheaper and safer form of medicine and make it easier for them to get it.

"A lot of people can't make that trip (to Fargo)," he said.

The proposed petition to initiate a constitutional measure is now in the hands of the North Dakota Secretary of State's office for review and approval to circulate.

If allowed to circulate, the petition will need 26,904 signatures to be placed on the ballot.

The deadline for submitting petition signatures is 120 days before the election the measure is to appear on, or one year from the date the petition is approved for circulation.

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