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Legalization effort aims to get ahead of marijuana, "the North Dakota way"

Legal Colorado marijuana grow
Brett Adam Levin
Legal Colorado marijuana grow

Former mayor of Bismarck Steve Bakken chairs the sponsoring committee for this election's recreational marijuana ballot initiative.

The group behind this election cycle’s recreational marijuana measure contains former law enforcement members, attorneys, business leaders – and even politicians.

Steve Bakken is the former mayor of Bismarck, and chairs the sponsoring committee for the proposed initiated measure. He says the group, called New Economic Frontier, consulted with multiple state agencies when crafting the wording of the measure. And Bakken says the group’s main focus is getting ahead of legal weed before it gets here.

"It can seamlessly integrate into North Dakota law. One of the things I've always had a concern about is the fact that we've had out of state initiated measures come in that just don't work with North Dakota. And that one-size-fits-all blanket, when they pass, is a nightmare - you leave things up to interpretation to the legislature, the attorney general's office, the implementation and fitting it into the century code. We're trying to get ahead of this."

The measure allows adults 21 and older to use cannabis at home without punishment, and allows up to one ounce of cannabis, four grams of concentrate and 300 milligrams of edibles to be in possession. It also allows the ability to grow up to three plants per person over the age of 21, limited to six plants per household. Bakken says these limits are more conservative than what most other states allow, including neighboring states with their own legalization laws – Minnesota and Montana. Bakken says there is reasoning behind that.

"Colorado has had a lot of issues, California has had a lot of issues, Oregon, Washington, a lot of the other states have had a lot of issues. We do not want to see those issues coming here. We know that eventually marijuana is eventually going to be legalized, but doing it right is the most important part of this measure."

Bakken says he used to be a firm 'no' on the legalization issue. But he says legalization will eventually come to North Dakota, and it’s vital to tackle before any other outside group. He also says with fentanyl and other dangerous substances on the rise and showing up in illegal marijuana – the ability to license, regulate and have quality control over marijuana will also save lives.

The group needs to secure 15,582 signatures by July 8 to be approved for a November vote. Currently 24 other states have legalized cannabis for recreational use.