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BISMARCK, ND — House and Senate lawmakers in North Dakota have passed legislation, House Bill 1050, reducing marijuana possession penalties.

The measure now awaits action from Republican Gov. Doug Burgum.

Under the proposal, the possession of up to one-half ounce (14.175 grams) of cannabis or marijuana-related paraphernalia for a first-time offender is reclassified from a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail, to an infraction — punishable by a fine but no possibility of jail time.

Those charged with subsequent infractions over the course of a calendar year may face the possibility of misdemeanor charges.

In 2016, North Dakota ranked sixth in the nation in per capita marijuana possession arrests.

Separate provisions in the measure reduce penalties for the possession of up to 500 grams of cannabis from a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison, to a class B misdemeanor. Penalties for the possession of greater amounts are amended from a felony to a Class A misdemeanor.

If signed into law, the new penalties will take effect on August 1, 2019.

UPDATE: Governor Burgum has signed HB 150 into law.

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