North Dakota Legislature Guts Voter Approved Medical Marijuana

Original sponsor indicates they will seek to replace it with a unamendable constitutional initiative instead

By William Stash Jones
Oregon Cannabis Connection


April 7, 2017— In November 2016 the citizens of North Dakota voted overwhelmingly to legalize medical marijuana. The North Dakota Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative, or Measure 5 on the ballot last year, received over 64% of the popular vote and was a major victory in the conservative state. The initiative allows for a physician to recommend treatment with cannabis for a number of specifically approved ailments.

Unfortunately, the legislature has taken a hatchet to the original measure, which was passed as a simple statutory amendment and not a constitutional amendment. The state Health and Human Services committee made over 40 changes to the original measure creating a completely different law than intended.

“They are so worried about kids getting into medicated foods, yet the opioid addiction issues across our state run rampant and what are they doing about that,” Rilie Ray Morgan, the original sponsor of the initiative, told Oregon Cannabis Connection in a phone interview.

The major changes to the initiative that are troublesome. They allow no smoking of flower without direct doctor approval, yet they completely eliminated edibles. They deemed no products with a THC level higher than 6%, and they removing the home growing provisions in the original measure the voters passed.

The bill, SB 2344, passed the house committee by a vote of 13-1 in favor and the floor vote was 79-13 in favor. The bill already passed through the Senate with the required majority. It will now go through a conference committee of three senators and three house members to negotiate the final details.

A statutory amendment in North Dakota can be changed and amended by the legislature with a 2/3rds majority vote, but a constitutional amendment cannot be changed for seven years. Politicians have made wholesale changes to the measure leaving it very different than originally intended.

Morgan testified during public comment at a committee hearing that they are facing a lawsuit or another voter initiative if they move forward with the legislation with these changes. The successful 2016 initiative required about 14,000 signatures to qualify, but a constitutional initiative would require twice as many.

“I told them we could always get another initiated measure two years down the road, and believe me, with as many people as you have pissed off concerning this Measure 5 we will have no problem getting the signatures and getting it back on the ballot again [as a constitutional measure]” Morgan said he told the committee. “They promised this program would be up and running and we would have medical cannabis in our hands in one year us they would have a medical marijuana program. If it’s not, we will start a process of getting an initiated measure on the ballot again.”

© 2017 Oregon Cannabis Connection. All rights reserved.

Keith Mansur

Keith Mansur is the founder, publisher, and editor of Oregon Cannabis Connection newspaper. The print publication has been serving Oregon since 2010. He has been a Oregon medical marijuana patient, grower, and caregiver since 2006. Find him on Facebook or email him at

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