North Dakota Cannabis Laws

Is Cannabis Legal In North Dakota?
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StateRecreationalMedical MarijuanaCBD
North DakotaNoYesYes

Federal Law:

Recreational Medical MarijuanaCBD

Is recreational cannabis legal in North Dakota?

No. Recreational adult-use is illegal in North Dakota. The state first prohibited cannabis in 1933, and recreational referendums have continually failed since. 

The most progressive changes were made in 2019 with legislation that lessened penalties for small amounts of possession, resulting in a maximum fine of $1000 and 30-day jail time. The bill also includes a release providing certain conditions, allowing first-time offenders to have their criminal record expunged after probation.

While state polling showed the majority of North Dakotans favor recreational use, two different groups working on a ballot initiative for the 2020 voting season were unable to succeed. If passed the bill would have allowed, adults over the age of 21 to possess, grow and transport up to 12 cannabis plants for personal use. 

Is Medical Marijuana legal in North Dakota?

Yes. After a failed attempt in 2015, North Dakota legalized medical marijuana with voters approving Measure 5 the next year. Unfortunately, like many other medical marijuana bills, partisan legislature stalled the program’s actual start, with it finally going into effect in 2018

Under North Dakota’s medical marijuana program, patients with qualifying conditions may possess up to 3 oz of product at a time (excluding edibles and concentrates). The state has become more lenient with what type of conditions qualify as long as their physician recommends using marijuana; patients may petition the North Dakota Department of Health to add to the list.

Patients are also allowed to cultivate their cannabis plant if they are not within 40 miles of a medical marijuana dispensary. 

Are CBD products legal in North Dakota? 

Yes. Since the passage of the Hemp Farming Act of 2018, hemp-derived CBD products are legal under federal law in the United States, as long as they contain at most 0.3% THC. 

Any and all CBD in food and drink is still federally illegal.

North Dakota’s Cannabis Timeline:

1933: North Dakota prohibits cannabis. 

1937: The Marihuana (archaic spelling of Marijuana) Tax Act was enacted banning cannabis at the federal level. Medical Marijuana use was still permitted.

1951: The Boggs Act, Sponsored by Hale Boggs and signed into law under President Harry S. Truman, This act set mandatory sentencing and increased punishment for cannabis possession. 

1969: The Marihuana Tax Act is deemed unconstitutional in the landmark Leary v. United States. Timothy Leary, a professor, and activist, was arrested for the possession of marijuana in violation of the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act. Leary then challenged the act on the ground that the act required self-incrimination, which violated his Fifth Amendment rights. (The self-incrimination clause provides various protections against self-incrimination, including the right of an individual to not serve as a witness in a criminal case in which they are the defendant, better known as “Pleading the Fifth”.) The unanimous opinion of the court was penned by Justice John Marshall Harlan II and declared the Marihuana Tax Act unconstitutional. Therefore, Leary’s conviction was overturned.

1970: The Controlled Substances Act is enacted (replacing the unconstitutional Marihuana Tax Act). Cannabis is classified as a Schedule I drug, determined to have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use, thereby prohibiting its use for any purpose. This act was signed into law by President Richard Nixon. 

This legislation created five classifications, with specific qualifications for a substance to be included in each. The substances scheduling (classification) are determined by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Yet, Congress does have the power to schedule or de-schedule substances through legislation. Substance scheduling decisions are based on its potential for abuse, accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and international treaties.

Classification of Controlled Substances:

Schedule I: High potential of abuse, not acceptable for medical use

Schedule II: High potential of abuse, sometimes allowed with “severe restrictions” for medical use

Schedule II: Medium potential of abuse, acceptable for medical use

Schedule IV: Moderate potential of abuse, acceptable for medical use

Schedule V: Lowest potential of abuse, acceptable for medical use

1984-1986: Mandatory Sentencing and the three-strikes law were created under the Reagan Administration. This accounts for some of the harshest drug laws created including mandatory 25-year imprisonment for certain drug offenses and the promotion of the death penalty to be used against “drug kingpins”.

1998: House Joint Resolution 117, encouraged by the passing of California’s Prop 215, the House of Representatives passed this measure to support the existing Federal legal process for determining the safety and efficacy of certain drugs.  

2014: The Rohrabacher–Farr Amendment passed in the U.S. House and signed into law prohibiting the Justice Department from interfering with the implementation of state medical cannabis laws.

2012- 2015: North Dakota’s Medical Marijuana fails. 

2016: North Dakota Measure 5, passes via voter approval, legalizing the use of medical marijuana. 

2018: North Dakota’s Medical Marijuana program goes into effect. 

2018: Farm bill legalizes low-THC hemp nationwide and effectively de-schedules hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) from the Controlled Substances Act. 

2019: North Dakota lessens penalties for small amounts of possession of cannabis, with a release in place providing certain conditions, allowing for first-time offenders to have their criminal record expunged after probation.

2020: North Dakota legalization advocates were unsuccessful to get an initiative for the 2020 voting season on a ballot.

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