The 2018 election, like the 2016 election before it, was on the whole a big win for cannabis measures on the ballot. Recreational weed went legal in Michigan while Missouri and Utah voters both approved medical marijuana bills. But in North Dakota, things did not go so smoothly.
Measure 3 could have been a dream come true for your most libertarian of potheads. The bill would have legalized cannabis for adults 21 and over with virtually no regulation of how it was sold. There was no limitation on quanitites to be bought or sold and no framework for how to license commercial production and retail facilities. It also would have expunged past criminal histories of cannabis offenses and precluded criminal prosecution for nonviolent cannabis offenses.
One poll in mid-October had Measure 3 winning by a nose with 51 percent of voters giving it the big thumbs up. But something must have happened between then and November 6, because by the times the real votes were counted Measure 3 was dying on the ballot: 59 percent opposed and 41 percent in favor, as reported by Forbes.
So what went so awry for the North Dakotan measure? The state surprised the country two years ago by approving medical marijuana on the ballot with 64 percent of the vote, so there’s obviously cannabis support there.
One problem might have been the loose-goosey nature of the proposition, which left quite a bit to be decided by local lawmakers. Even voters in favor of legal cannabis wouldn’t really know what system they were approving, since regulators would have to create a brand new structure almost from scratch once legalization became the law.
Also, there was the money question. Opposition to the bill outspent advocates more than three to one, according to Ballotpedia via Leafly. But it was exactly the small time do-it-yourself aspect of the campaign that still gives some cannabis advocates hope.
“This was a very impressive showing given it was a truly grassroots effort and the first time legalization had appeared on the ballot in a very conservative state,” Mason Tvert, a spokesperson for the Marijuana Policy Project, told Forbes. “The ball is now rolling in North Dakota, and we hope the state’s passionate local activist community will keep that momentum going. It is worth noting the first legalization initiative we ran in Colorado in 2006 received about 41 percent, and it wasn’t much longer before we crossed the goal line.”
Photo via Flickr user Lindsey G.