Why is North Dakota closer to legalizing weed than Minnesota is?

Is North Dakota cooler than us? Because they're way closer to legalizing weed.

Is North Dakota cooler than us? Because they're way closer to legalizing weed. Getty Images/iStockphoto

North Dakota is one of most conservative states in the nation.

A 2017 Gallup poll recognized it, Mississippi, and Wyoming as the right-leaning creme de la creme, with self-identified conservatives outnumbering self-identified liberals by 30 percentage points. The state hasn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964.

Minnesota’s last Republican presidential pick was Nixon in 1972. Ours was once called the second most liberal state in the country based on our voting trends, and a recent poll by KSTP found that 56 percent of our registered voters said they’d support legalizing recreational marijuana.

So which state would you guess is poised to legalize weed?

Well, it isn’t Minnesota.

This November, North Dakota voters have the chance to decide whether or not they want to fully legalize marijuana. Smoking or growing weed would be totally legal as long as you’re over 21, and there’d be no legal limit to how much you can have on your farm or simply lying around. 

And despite a relatively underfunded pro-legalization movement (about $23,500) up against a wealthy opposition movement (with $156,000 to burn), the marijuana measure just might pass. Legal weed is favored among likely voters by a margin of 51 percent to 36 percent, according to a survey released Sunday.

Is… is North Dakota cooler than us?

Minnesota Campaign for Full Legalization Director Marcus Harcus doesn’t think so. But there is one thing North Dakota has that Minnesota doesn’t: the ability to put an initiative, or a constitutional amendment introduced by the people through a petition process, on the ballot. Only Vermont has achieved legal weed without one.

Minnesota’s stance on legal weed is up to its legislators, not its people; “Otherwise we might already have done it,” Harcus says.

Yet, considering all the goodwill toward legalization in Minnesota, Harcus says most legislators are still treating it like “a fringe issue.” He says they claim they haven’t gotten a lot of pressure from their voters to change things.

If North Dakota isn’t cooler than us, are they just madder?

They could be, and they’d have good reason to be, according to the Washington Post. You are way more likely to be arrested for smoking weed in North Dakota, and it’s probably going to suck way more if you do.

FBI crime data compiled by the NORML pro legalization group found that in 2016, Minnesota arrested people for possession at a rate of about 7 arrests per every thousand marijuana users. In North Dakota, that was 41 arrests per every thousand.

On top of that, getting caught with less than an ounce of weed is considered a misdemeanor punishable by 30 days in jail and a $1,500 fine. Anything over that is a felony, and you could spend up to five years in prison for it.

North Dakota may or may not be cooler than us, but it’s probably a little more fed up with the status quo. It takes a lot of frustration to change things quickly. If you want to get legal weed, maybe you need to get madder first.