50 States: North Dakota


Thanks to Morgan and hundreds of volunteers canvassing the state, North Dakota has access to medical cannabis. The law allows patients with a registered ID card to possess up to three ounces of cannabis obtained from a compassion center to treat a list of qualifying conditions, which the North Dakota Department of Health can expand. Those who live more than 40 miles away from a compassion center would be allowed to grow up to eight plants in a confined area on their own property.

While MMJ marks a milestone in the Peace Garden State, the criminal penalties for possession remain some of the harshest in the nation. Possession of less than an ounce is a misdemeanor with up to 30 days in jail and a $1500 fine, and anything more than an ounce could mean a felony with up to 10 years in prison and $20,000 in fines. A bill to decrease penalties failed to make it past the committee process in 2015, and there is no pending legislation for the decriminalization of cannabis possession.

Though North Dakota is far behind the times in terms of the prohibition and criminalization of cannabis, it is one of the leaders in industrial hemp farming. It was actually the first state to issue hemp-growing licenses in 2007, which federal drug laws thwarted until Congress passed legislation in 2014 that allowed hemp research. In 2015, Gov. Jack Dalrymple signed into law a new hemp bill that explicitly cuts the federal government out of licensing procedures by allowing farmers (with permits) to raise hemp for commercial, and not just research, purposes.