North Dakota’s Senate voted overwhelmingly against a bill to legalize recreational marijuana.
House Bill 1420 would have restricted cannabis use to those 21 and older, limited possession to one ounce and banned growing the plant at home. Senators supporting the bill said passing it would ward off citizen-led efforts to cement legalization into the constitution through a ballot measure.
Sen. Judy Lee said she and other lawmakers may not like the idea of legalizing the drug, but it’s coming to the state one way or another, and it’s better the legislature be at the forefront.
“Is it better to let it happen as it likely will eventually, or should we provide some guideposts, which would contain its evolution? 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,” Lee said.
But senators who opposed the bill cited concerns over driver impairment, teen use, brain development issues and the fact the drug is illegal federally. Sen. Oley Larsen said it’s not the legislature’s place to get ahead of initiated measures, and the bill would be a financial boon for the “corporate farming drug cartel of North Dakota” while harming families.
“I’m wondering why we’re in this big hurry to deregulate it, decriminalize it and fast track it, to just get stoned. Why are we doing that? Is it so we can increase the munchie sales and pump taxes into the economy? No, what I hear mostly is ‘Oh, this is a ballot issue. We gotta do something cause of the ballot issue,’” Larsen said.
The bill failed by a vote of 10 to 37, after having passed in the House last month 56 to 38.