A medical marijuana referendum may appear on the 2016 ballot in North Dakota as one group of supporters plans to submit a proposed initiative Tuesday, the Associated Press reported. Under the proposed measure, medical marijuana dispensaries would be regulated by the state's Department of Health.
If the group is given the go-ahead, it will need to collect 13,5000 petition signatures from North Dakota registered voters to get the initiative on the general election ballot. The measure mirrors laws adopted in Delaware and Arizona, and would allow doctors to prescribe cannabis to someone suffering from a chronic illness such as cancer, glaucoma, epilepsy, or post-traumatic stress disorder.
"We're calling it the North Dakota Compassionate Care Act and the dispensaries Compassionate Care Centers," said Rilie Ray Morgan, a Fargo financial planner who is a chairman of the 27-person group. "We want to soften it and eliminate any negative connotations."
Patients would qualify to possess up to 3 ounces of marijuana for medical purposes. Those with prescriptions would also be able to grow a limited amount for personal use, according to the group.
A statewide initiative similar to the North Dakota Compassionate Care Act appeared on the 2012 ballot, but was ultimately thrown out by the state Supreme Court after Secretary of State Alvin Jaeger learned that some of the signatures were forged by North Dakota State University football players hired to solicit support. Another bipartisan measure to legalize marijuana was voted down by the state's Republican-led House this year.
The group behind the North Dakota Compassionate Care Act said it has no plans to hire anyone to circulate the petition.
If the citizen initiative is approved next year, North Dakota would become the 24th state to legalize medical marijuana. California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996. Other states have gone on to legalize cannabis entirely, including Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington.