North Dakota's Senate dealt another blow to recreational marijuana legislation on Friday, voting down a bill to decriminalize possession of small quantities of the drug and paraphernalia.
House Bill 1201, brought by Rep. Shannon Roers Jones, R-Fargo, failed 13-32. The House had passed it earlier 58-36. Roers Jones said criminal records for minor marijuana offenses can affect people's abilities to find jobs and housing.
The Senate Judiciary Committee gave the bill a 6-1 "do not pass" recommendation. Chairwoman Sen. Diane Larson, R-Bismarck, said the committee "felt that this was not the time to decriminalize marijuana."
"If we didn't pass a bill yesterday that would have legalized (recreational marijuana) with a lot of restrictions and regulations, then to legalize it today, I think, is very wrong thinking," Larson said.
Decriminalization is not legalization, but the lessening or removal of criminal penalties for an offense.
Roers Jones previously said the bill possibly "may not be necessary" if the bill to legalize recreational marijuana were to pass. The Senate on Thursday defeated that bill 10-37 and unanimously shot down a related tax policy.
The 2019 Legislature passed a law making possession of up to half an ounce of marijuana an infraction, punishable by a maximum $1,000 fine. Previously it was a more serious misdemeanor offense.
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem on Friday pitched lawmakers a proposal that would limit parts of a voter-passed law legalizing medical marijuana in the state, but she conceded that the drug will become legal for patients on July 1.
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