North Dakota Decriminalizes Marijuana

North Dakota Decriminalizes Marijuana



With the “Green Wave” being at the forefront of current events, it seems that every move in favour of cannabis reform is being shouted from the rooftops. Whether it is decriminalization, medical permission or full-blown legalization, signature moves like these typically start and end with a decent amount of fanfare.

But North Dakota apparently is not interested in the spotlight. According to Vox, the state decriminalized marijuana in early May, yet they didn’t make a peep.

While North Dakota may not want to call much attention to such a critical policy change, its impact as part of a broader picture means it is worth noting.


A Discreet Change


North Dakota is a Republican state, which is why any kind of marijuana progress is rather telling. Right-leaning individuals and their elected officials tend to have a strong anti-cannabis stance compared to their liberal counterparts. Nonetheless, this did not stop North Dakota. According to Vox:


“…Republican Gov. Doug Burgum signed a bill decriminalizing marijuana last week — but the issue got little to no attention from his office or news media. The law makes it so first-time possession of up to half an ounce of marijuana is no longer a criminal misdemeanor that carries the potential for jail time, but instead is an infraction that only carries a fine.”


One thing worth pointing out is that the typical go-to maximum possession limit is one ounce (28g) in states who decriminalize the drug. North Dakota’s limit of half an ounce seems a bit arbitrary, but it could just be because Governor Burgum wants to keep the leniency minimal enough to avoid riling up his constituents.

The governor’s political affiliation might also explain the secrecy of his administration in passing such a bill. Keeping decriminalization quiet would help resolve some of prohibition’s headaches without causing controversy.


Decriminalization vs. Legalization – a Middle-Ground


As far as cannabis reform goes, decriminalization has always sat well with prohibitionists who are uncomfortable with full legalization. Replacing the punishments for low-level possession keeps the consequences less punitive while still leaving the drug’s distribution in the hands of drug dealers.

As Vox explains:


“[Opponents] see ‘tough on crime’ policies as too punitive and costly, but they don’t want to resort to full legalization, which they fear would make pot too accessible in the US and allow big corporations to sell and market the drug irresponsibly.”


They seemingly forget that it is much easier to access illegal cannabis through a dealer than a dispensary via photo ID, or that the government can exercise control over how the drug is marketed and sold.

Of course, there are other flaws with stopping at decriminalization. According to Vox:


“The concern for legalization advocates is that decriminalization keeps the ban on selling marijuana, which means users wouldn’t have a legal source for the drug, and criminal organizations would therefore still have a source of revenue that they can use for violent operations around the world. The fines, while less punitive than arrests or prison time, can also cause problems, since they’re often applied in a racially disparate manner.”


Decriminalization may not be perfect, but to its credit, the measure at least reduces the victimization of individuals who simply want to consume cannabis without being jailed.


WeedAdvisor’s Advocacy for Progressive Change


WeedAdvisor’s main interest will always be to see cannabis fully legalized. However, we do understand that such changes move more slowly in some places than others. Many legislators and regular citizens alike are still uneasy about legalization.

We hope that, through our continued attempts to contribute to public cannabis education, our activism will help propel change in the U.S. and throughout the world.

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