Passed on January 3, 2017, North Dakota Senate Bill 2344 enacted the first honest medical cannabis program in the state. Unlike the overly restrictive nature of Texas’ Compassionate Use Act, North Dakota’s implemented program would provide patients who suffer from a range of conditions, from ALS to spinal stenosis and several more conditions, HIV and cancer to name a few more very serious ailments (1).
The bill, which is special due to the state’s still present majority opposition to recreational legalization, starts off by going into extreme detail about the legal definitions regarding every possible vocabulary word that relates to cannabis or manufacturing the plant. Every popular cannabis product, from tinctures and edibles to concentrates and transdermal patches, are defined in the pristine detail that only a 4K TV could replicate.
But what’s most important is that terms such as “designated caregiver” and “medical cannabinoid product” are just as accurately legally defined as to who can legally be considered a caregiver. Moreover, the processes to receive a prescription, from becoming a “cardholder” to whom exactly is legally allowed to dispense medical cannabis, is also described without leaving any possible grey area. The verbiage, while overly wordy, is certainly necessary given the oftentimes convoluted medical cannabis laws in the country.
This measure is certainly an important step in the future of medical legalization of cannabis in rural states, especially in a state that 63% voted against recreational legalization in 2014 (3).
However, what’s confusing about the advent of medical cannabis in North Dakota, a conservative state that prides itself on small business ownership mostly free from big government, is that only two of the 19 applications collected will be accepted to operate by the state’s Department of Health.
And throughout the 71,000 square mile state that consists of over 755,000 people, only eight dispensaries will be allowed to operate in North Dakota.
The bill, restrictive in nature, implemented a $5000 non-refundable application fee along with a form of over 40 pages that collects exorbitant amounts of information on every employee or owners related to a potential grower, zoning forms, requests of exact excerpts of dispensary operations manuals and a scoring system that rates facilities based on everything from sustainability to affordability and even education/outreach.
Regardless of whether your hypothetical facility is one of the two facilities granted access or not, the $5,000 fee is required and isn’t refundable. And while the time to apply has since expired, had the North Dakota medical cannabis application forms received any modifications, another non-refundable $5,000 would’ve been required along with an updated application.
Although in fairness, the original $5,000 would be refunded had any revisions occured (2).
While North Dakota isn’t the most populated state, the 1,000 plant limit that Senate Bill 2344 implements could potentially be an issue if the demand is high.
While medical cannabis access could never be a step in the wrong direction for public health especially given the opioid crisis that still ravages most of the country, the incredibly tight state restrictions on cannabis in North Dakota could make the market an incredibly difficult one for further business opportunities until more relaxed laws are implemented.
Below are the full versions of both Senate Bill No. 2344 and the North Dakota Department of Health applications for dispensaries:
- Senate Bill No. 2344: http://www.legis.nd.gov/assembly/65-2017/documents/17-0630-05000.pdf
- North Dakota Department of Health Application for Dispensaries: http://www.ndhealth.gov/MM/PDF/DRAFT_Dispensary_Application_Materials.pdf
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