North Dakota lawmakers take on recreational marijuana, “antiquated” breastfeeding law, and seat belt bill in busy legislative session
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) —North Dakota’s 2021 legislative session is anything but boring, with several new efforts being made to push through previously-rejected measures.
Supporters of amending North Dakota’s constitution to legalize recreational marijuana are taking another run at the issue, after failing to collect enough signatures to get it on the 2020 ballot. Secretary of State Al Jaeger says the group filed the petition on Monday.
If approved, backers would have one year to turn in at least 26,904 valid signatures to put it to a vote in November 2022.
Petition gatherers fell just shy of 24,000 signatures in last year’s effort. Organizers said they were hampered by the coronavirus pandemic.
Proponents of recreational marijuana have said they were encouraged by similar measures that were approved by voters in South Dakota and Montana in November.
Some North Dakota mothers are again pushing for the removal of what they describe as outdated language in state law governing breastfeeding. Under current law, women may breastfeed in public only “in a discreet and modest manner.”
A bill scheduled for a hearing in the state Capitol on Tuesday aims to remove that language and make it illegal and punishable by up to a $1,000 fine to prohibit a mother from breastfeeding. A near identical bill was rebuffed by the Republican-controlled Legislature two years ago.
Democratic Rep. Gretchen Dobervich says the law is “antiquated” and that definitions of “discreet and modest” are subjective.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers want to tighten North Dakota’s seat belt law to allow police to pull over anyone they see driving unbuckled – or any of their passengers. It’s the latest in a decades-old and contentious effort to encourage more seat belt use among North Dakota drivers.
Advocates of the so-called primary-enforcement idea have been rebuffed repeatedly in the Republican-led Legislature. North Dakota’s current law is a ″secondary enforcement″ provision, meaning that police may not pull over a motorist simply for not being belted; police first must see the driver committing another violation such as speeding.