North Dakota Senate ashes out recreational marijuana bill

House Bill 1420 would have legalized recreational marijuana in North Dakota for adults.

By Dylan Sherman, NDNAEF

BISMARCK — The North Dakota Senate has overwhelmingly voted against House Bill 1420, which would have legalized recreational marijuana in North Dakota. 

Vocal opposition to the bill and against marijuana in general preceded the 37-10 rejection on March 25. Sen. Diane Larson, R-Bismarck, said she has seen negative effects on the brain from marijuana use and believes it is wrong for North Dakota.

“It’s a wrong thing to pass something that we don’t like, just so that we don’t get something we don’t hate,” she said, reflecting the general expectation that no legislative provision for recreational marijuana likely would invite a new initiated measure that could open the door to marijuana even wider.

North Dakota voters surprised lawmakers in 2016 by approving medical marijuana.

In debate over HB 1420, Sen. Robert Fors, R-Larimore, kept his comments short and to the point: “Get off the pot and vote no.”

Proponents from the House and Senate pushed for the bill as a way to avoid legalizing recreational marijuana through a ballot measure. 

Sen. Judy Lee, R-West Fargo, carried the bill to the chamber and said it would be a way to regulate and make marijuana safe to use.

“I think that this is something over which we can allow some control, and I think we were elected to make responsible choices,” she said.

Sen. Kristin Roers, R-Fargo, said this bill would have ensured marijuana for sale would not be laced with other drugs or substances. “The issues that come out of marijuana really have come from it being a tainted product,” she said. 

HB 1420 had passed through the House by a vote of 56-38, with vocal opposition from representatives bringing up similar comments as heard on the Senate floor.

Sen. Dick Dever, R-Bismarck, said he would vote against the bill because he thought the people should decide whether recreational marijuana should be legalized. 

“I trust the people to make the right decision,” he said. “If I could offer an alternative to this bill … How about we have a delayed constitutional resolution that would just put the idea on the ballot?”