A North Dakota Senate committee today advanced a bill to legalize marijuana in the state after the bill was passed by the House.

The unique move from the Senate is that they did it without a recommendation on whether the legislature should pass or defeat it.

According to lawmakers on the panel, the House-passed legislation moving forward wasn’t because they necessarily want to create a regulated cannabis industry but because members had emphasized that they are taking “preventative” action to get ahead of a more far-reaching legalization initiative that activists are working to place before voters on the 2022 ballot.

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Jason Dockter (R) and allows adults 21 and older to possess and purchase up to one ounce of cannabis for personal use. Under the bill, home cultivation would be prohibited.

The Senate Human Services Committee advanced Dockter’s legislation in an overwhelming 5-1 vote, without a recommendation.

The members first voted on whether to move it with a do-pass recommendation, but they came up tied, 3-3. Another vote on a do-not-pass recommendation had also seen a split.

“I think we need to look at this really carefully and try to figure out what’s best for North Dakota. And, no, I don’t like to be threatened by the fact there’s an initiated measure out there,” Human Services Chair Judy Lee (R) commented. “But the reality is that it’s there, and we can’t ignore that fact.”

She referred to the bill as a “preventative maintenance” and said “nobody wants to have surgery, but frankly sometimes we need to do it in order to make sure that the outcome down the road is better health for the rest of us.”

The bill has now been referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration before heading to the floor of the body.

“I understand that this is the way that the world is moving,” Sen. Kristin Roers (R) remarked. “I want the best, safest version of it that we can have, and that’s why I support it—not because I want this to be a free-for-all.”

“We are happy the bill has moved out of Senate Human Resources and are proud to continue supporting the bill in its new amended state,” David Owen, chairman of the pro-reform group Legalize ND said to Marijuana Moment. “While a non-recommendation from committee is not ideal, we await continuing to work on the next steps of the process and hope the senators will show the same wisdom their colleagues in the House did.”

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