Cannabis in North Dakota concerns the drug cannabis in North Dakota, United States, where cannabis was legalized for medical purposes in 2016 but remains illegal for recreational purposes. Possession of small recreational amounts is a misdemeanor crime.[1] The cultivation of hemp is currently legal in North Dakota.[2] In November 2018, the state's voters voted on recreational marijuana legalization, along with Michigan;[3] the measure was rejected 59% to 41%.[4]Two groups attempted to put marijuana legalization measures on the June 2020 Primary and the November 2020 elections, but were prevented from doing so by the COVID-19 pandemic.[5]

In 2021, the North Dakota legislature began the process of legalizing recreational marijuana in order to prevent an initiated legalization measure from appearing on the 2022 ballot. If successful, this would mark the first time a Republican-controlled U.S. state has legalized marijuana through the legislative process.[6]


Marijuana was made illegal in North Dakota in 1933; Oklahoma made it illegal the same year, and South Dakota in 1931.[7] In May 2019, penalties were reduced in the state, with possession resulting in a fine instead of jail time, however possession of any amount of hashish or concentrates is still a felony, with punishment up to 5 years in prison.

Medical marijuana[edit]

Failed attempts (2015)[edit]

In 2015, House Bill 1430 attempted to establish a medical marijuana framework, but was voted down at 26-67 in February. Members of the House Human Services Committee stated: “We just felt that the concerns and the risks at this point in time outweigh the potential benefits … for a small group that feels that none of the currently available drugs work".[8] Following the bill's failure, Fargo resident Rilie Ray Morgan began the process of preparing a ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana for the 2016 general election.[9]

Medical legalization (2016)[edit]

In 2016, North Dakota voters approved Measure 5, establishing a medical cannabis program for their state.[10] In 2017, both houses of the state legislature passed changes to Measure 5, including removal of a provision allowing medical users to grow their own marijuana. The changes also required that a medical professional specifically recommend smoking as a method of using marijuana in some cases. Some backers of the ballot initiative were displeased with the legislation, saying that some of the regulations were not justifiable.[11] The bill passed both houses of the ND State Legislature with the required two-thirds majority. As of July 10, 2018, the North Dakota Department of Health has opened an application window for medical cannabis dispensary licenses in the Bismarck and Fargo areas.[12]

Medical Marijuana Program[edit]

Effective April 18, 2017, the North Dakota Department of Health established and implemented a medical marijuana program to allow the production, processing, sale, dispensing, and medical use of marijuana by qualifying patients and caregivers.[13] In May 2018, Pure Dakota LLC and Grassroots Cannabis were selected to run the two manufacturing facilities allowed under the program's rules.[14]

Recreational Marijuana[edit]

Recreational Referendum 2018 (Failed)[edit]

North Dakota residents voted on an initiative to legalise recreational marijuana at the same time as the 2018 midterms. The measure was rejected 59% to 41%.[15]

Recreational Referendum 2020 (Not on the ballot)[edit]

The North Dakota Freedom of Cannabis Act would have legalized recreational marijuana in the North Dakota for those 21 and older. It would also allow North Dakotans to grow a small number of plants at home, but it would have specifically bared public consumption. The measure needed a minimum of 27,000 valid signatures. The sponsoring committee was about 3,000 signatures short.[16]

Recreational Referendum 2022 (In planning)[edit]

Various organizations are now working toward 2022. These efforts may be preempted by legalization legislation currently being debated in the North Dakota legislature.


A late-2014 poll conducted by the University of North Dakota found that North Dakotans favored medical marijuana 47-41, but were against legalizing recreational marijuana, 24-68.[17] A 2018 poll showed that North Dakotans favored the recreational marijuana ballot initiative 46-39 with 15 percent undecided.[18]


Personal use possession of less than half an ounce is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by a maximum sentence of 30 days imprisonment and a maximum fine of $1,000. Personal use possession of less than half an ounce while operating a motor vehicle is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a maximum sentence of 1 year imprisonment and a maximum fine of $1,000. Personal use possession of half an ounce - 1 ounce is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a maximum sentence of 1 year imprisonment and a maximum fine of $1,000.[19]

In 2021, the North Dakota legislature began the process of legalizing marijuana when state representative Jason Dockter (R-Bismarck) introduced legislation to allow adults 21 and older to possess and purchase up to 1 ounce of marijuana for personal use. The legislation prohibits home cultivation and requires that purchases be tracked and limited to the legal amount. Dockter and other Republicans supported the bill despite their personal opposition to legalization in order to prevent a more permissive voter-sponsored legalization measure from appearing on the ballot in 2022.[20]


  1. ^ North Dakota Laws & Penalties, NORML
  2. ^ "Revolution, Hemp Style Now". Cannabis News.
  3. ^ Angell, Tom. "North Dakota Marijuana Legalization Measure Qualifies For November Ballot". Forbes.
  4. ^ Jaeger, Kyle (7 November 2018). "North Dakota Voters Reject Marijuana Legalization Measure".
  5. ^ Taylor, Alexander. Jamestown Sun Retrieved 31 July 2019. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. ^ North Dakota Senate looks to turn over new leaf on recreational marijuana
  7. ^ Charles H. Whitebread (1974). The Marijuana Conviction: A History of Marijuana Prohibition in the United States. Lindesmith Center. p. 39. ISBN 978-1-891385-06-3.
  8. ^ Nowatzki, Mike (2015-02-18). "North Dakota House kills medical marijuana bill". Grand Forks Herald. Retrieved 2015-08-26.
  9. ^ Nicole Johnson (2015-08-19). "Fargo Man Fighting To Legalize Medical Marijuana In ND, "Be Compassionate"". Retrieved 2015-08-26.
  10. ^ New, The (2016-11-08). "North Dakota Measure 5 — Medical Marijuana — Results: Approved – Election Results 2016 – The New York Times". Retrieved 2016-11-17.
  11. ^ "Rules Set for North Dakota Medical Marijuana Program". US News. Retrieved 2017-06-27.
  12. ^ "Medical Marijuana Program Status Update 07-10-18" (PDF).
  13. ^ "Medical Marijuana - North Dakota Department of Health".
  14. ^ Horn, Andrew. "ND Department of Health chooses medical marijuana manufacturers".
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ "Poll: N.D. accepts medical marijuana, not recreational". 2014-10-17. Retrieved 2015-08-26.
  18. ^ "The next state to legalize marijuana could be . . . North Dakota?".
  19. ^ []
  20. ^ North Dakota Senate looks to turn over new leaf on recreational marijuana