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Attorney general: ND medical pot law still requires two-thirds legislative vote to amend

BISMARCK — Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem has issued an opinion concluding that North Dakota's medical marijuana law, passed overwhelmingly by voters and significantly amended by legislators, retains its initiated measure status.

That preserved status means that any further changes to the law would require a two-thirds majority of both legislative chambers if attempted within seven years of the passage of the law in 2016, Stenehjem wrote in an opinion issued Friday, Dec. 8.

After being overwhelmingly approved by voters, legislators determined they had to make changes, including decriminalizing medical marijuana use for qualified patients. Those changes passed the North Dakota House and Senate by the two-thirds votes required by the North Dakota Constitution.

Stenehjem cited North Dakota Supreme Court decisions in his opinion.

"The North Dakota Supreme Court held that where the Legislative Assembly amended and reenacted an initiated measure, its initiative character was not destroyed, and any subsequent amendments were still subject" to the two-thirds vote requirement, Stenehjem wrote.

Also, the wording of the bill amending the medical marijuana measure made clear that legislators' intent was to "make of the old and the new a connected piece of legislation covering the same subject matter," thus protecting the law's initiated measure status, Stenehjem said in his opinion.

The opinion was sought by three legislators: Sen. Joan Heckaman, D-New Rockford, Rep. Pamela Anderson, D-Fargo, and Rep. Mary Schneider, D-Fargo.