The bill would reduce the fines for holding less than half a millimeter of marijuana to a non-criminal fine of $ 250. That's currently a class B crime that would stay in place for half an ounce or more.
The proposal came to the Senate through a floor removal offered by Fargo Republican Sen. Kristin Roers. It went ahead in a 37-10 vote before the Senate approved the law itself.
Home and Senate lawmakers are expected to resolve the differences in a joint conference committee before considering an end product. The house reported a bill for decriminalization of marijuana in February.
The Senate vote found hours before the group behind a failed ballot in 2018, scheduled to hold a public debate on a "framework" for a 2020 legalization effort in Fargo. Roers suggested that the Decriminalization Act could cause a new ballot box and at the same time help people avoid a criminal record because of their & # 39; youthful indiscretion & # 39 ;.
"If we don't make any step-by-step changes, the changes will be made for us," she said.
Republican government Doug Burgum has expressed support for decriminalization at state level. He generally does not comment on specific legislation until it reaches his office.
But some senators argued that the proposal was too far away in the direction of legalization and would make the drug more available.
"I don't care how you say it, legalize everything under a violation," Sen said. Michael Dwyer, R-Bismarck. "It essentially does what the people have just voted against."
As amended by the Senate, House Bill 1050 also reduces fines for marijuana assets of a class B crime to a non-criminal fine of $ 100. Similarly, it imposes a non-criminal fine of $ 250 for the use of marijuana , down from a class B crime.
Class B felony costs involve a maximum of 30 days in prison and a $ 1500 fine. But the head of the Attorneys & Association of the North Dakota State said earlier that courts are already beating people because they have a small amount of marijuana.
The bill requires an interim legislative study on the "implications of the possible adoption of an initiated measure that allows the use of recreational marijuana." The study would investigate the benefits and drawbacks of legalization for the state economy, tax revenue, public health and drug use by young people.
The study would also investigate how legalization could affect the state's existing medical marijuana program, which voters approved in 2016.
Legalize ND President David Owen, who defended the legalization efforts in the state, said the decriminalization law does not go far enough.
"It won't stop me," he said.