A major oil industry association that previously worked to stop North Dakota from legalizing weed has announced that they will not interfere with a new legalization campaign.

In 2018, local cannabis advocates launched a successful campaign to place an adult-use legalization measure on that year’s election ballot. This progressive measure would have allowed adults to grow and possess as much weed as they wanted and directed state courts to expunge former cannabis crimes. But although they managed to collect enough signatures for the ballot, advocates didn’t have much luck raising enough cash to promote their campaign.

Major local industry groups had no qualms about throwing down large sums of cash to oppose legalization, though. The North Dakota Petroleum Council, which advocates for the state’s powerful oil industry, threw down $30,000 to oppose the legalization measure. At the time, the group was concerned that industry employees would be more likely to fail drug tests if weed became legal. One fifth of all jobs in the state are in the oil industry, and most oilfield jobs require regular drug testing.

The Greater North Dakota Chamber, which represents a variety of local businesses, also coughed up $64,000 to oppose the campaign. Again, this decision was largely driven by fears that legal weed would reduce the state’s overall employment pool by causing more workers to fail random drug tests. In the end, the anti-legalization funding paid off, and the 2018 ballot measure was defeated by a large margin.

Fast forward to 2022, and activists have successfully gotten another legalization measure onto the ballot. The financial picture is much brighter this year than it was four years ago, however. The new campaign has already collected more than $520,000 in funding, most of which came from the New Approach Advocacy Fund and the Marijuana Policy Project.

Several of the groups that opposed legalization last time are also coming to accept the inevitability of reform. Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, said that his group will not be funding any opposition efforts this year. “It’s one of those things where we only have so many resources,” he told the Associated Press

Arik Spencer, CEO and president of the Greater North Dakota Chamber, said that his group has’t decided whether they will oppose the measure, or support it. A growing number of major companies, including Amazon, have recently put an end to unnecessary workplace cannabis testing, which should allay some concerns about reducing the employment pool. The legal cannabis industry, which now employs over half a million Americans full-time, would also create many new jobs in the state as well.

The new legalization measure is also somewhat less progressive than the previous proposal, which may help boost its chances of success. Instead of allowing adults to grow as much weed as they want, the new proposal limits home-grows to three plants, and personal possession is capped at one ounce. The initiative would allow regulated adult-use sales, but the expungement provisions have unfortunately been removed from the new version of the measure.

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