BISMARCK – Sponsors of a proposed ballot measure aimed at full legalization of marijuana in North Dakota and a separate measure to legalize medical marijuana are looking for a lift from “4/20” events planned in several cities Wednesday, the unofficial “National Weed Day.”
Supporters will collect signatures in Fargo’s Island Park and at a concert in Mandan by the band Texas Hippie Coalition, while Minot will see a “Spring Budding” event in Moose Park and organizers in Valley City will host their first “VC 4/20 Rally” at the Barnes County Courthouse – starting at 4:20 p.m., of course, with “420” having become a common slang term for marijuana.
“I think one way or another we’re going to get a pretty good quantity of signatures tomorrow (Wednesday) between all of the events,” said Eric Olson of Fargo, chairman of the full legalization sponsoring committee.
Backers each need at least 13,452 signatures by July 11 to get their respective measures on the November ballot.
Olson said he had 856 signatures in hand Tuesday and another 2,900 that volunteers had collected but hadn’t turned in yet. Their goal is 20,000 signatures.
“I think we’ll manage to get there,” he said. “It is a lot to do because we’re doing an entirely volunteer effort.”
Rilie Ray Morgan of Fargo, who chairs the medical marijuana committee, said more than 3,500 signatures were turned in so far, with another 6,000 or so that volunteers say they’ve collected. Sponsors are aiming for 15,000 signatures to ensure their measure, dubbed the Compassionate Care Act, ends up on the ballot.
“I’m pretty confident. We’ve still got 90 days, but we’re not going to sit on our hands and wait until the last minute,” he said.
If approved by voters, the measure would make it legal to possess up to 3 ounces of medical marijuana. State-licensed facilities would dispense it, but people living more than 40 miles from the nearest dispensary could grow up to eight marijuana plants in an enclosed, locked facility after notifying law enforcement.
The full legalization measure would make it legal for those over age 21 to grow, possess, use and distribute marijuana and would prevent the state from requiring a license to do it. Marijuana and marijuana paraphernalia couldn’t be taxed at more than 20 percent.
Supporters of both measures planned to gather signatures at most of the events Wednesday.
Allison Trenbeath, who wants access to the THC in medical marijuana to help her 15-year-old daughter who suffers from a rare seizure-causing condition called Dravet syndrome, said she will speak at the Minot event and hopes the attention around 4/20 will help her fill petition sheets.
“I’m definitely hoping to get a lot of signatures,” she said.
Medical marijuana sponsor Mary Rennich of Bismarck said she didn’t expect a volunteer at the Mandan concert. Instead, they’ll be setting up in Bismarck’s Sertoma Park on April 30 to coincide with a walk for multiple sclerosis.
“We are for medical, and we’re to help people who are suffering, and 4/20 historically represents pot smoking and represents weed day, and that is not our measure,” she said. “We didn’t want to muddy the line between their measure and our measure.”
Both Morgan and Olson said confusion between the two measures hasn’t been a big issue, though Olson noted, “You get some people who haven’t paid attention to which one they’ve signed.”
Morgan said his group has committee members gathering signatures for both measures.
“The medical is a little easier sell,” he said. “It’s apples and oranges.”