House committee works on medical marijuana bill this week

Mar 27, 2017

Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner (R-Dickinson).
Credit ND Legislature

House Majority Leader Al Carlson (R-Fargo).
Credit ND Legislature

A House Committee is hoping to have the medical marijuana bill on the House floor late this week.

The House Human Services Committee has the bill – and lawmakers plan to work on the bill for the next few days.

The bill rewrites the medical marijuana initiated measure voters passed in November. The supporters say they did that to make it conform to North Dakota standards, write rules and de-criminalize medical marijuana. The measure needs a two-thirds vote in each house. The Senate made some changes to the bill – and the House committee is also working on amendments.

"I believe that on the Senate side, the two-thirds will prevail again," said Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner (R-Dickinson), the lead sponsor of the bill. "I'm just hoping the same thing will happen in the House. I don't see any real reasons why it wouldn't."

House Majority Leader Al Carlson (R-Farg0) said the important thing is that the bill decriminalizes medical marijuana – something he says the sponsors forgot to do.

"We will know everybody who touches it, everybody who dispenses it, everybody who uses it," Carlson said. "We've got a good bill."

The sponsors of the measure wanted to allow people to grow their own medical marijuana. That was stripped from the bill. But a Minot State Senator wants to allow it – for patients who live far from distribution centers or “grow operations." The two leaders said they would not support that.

"We need to make sure that law enforcement are able to supervise and enforce it," Wardner said. "If we allow that, we're putting a lot of stress on law enforcement, and it would cost us a lot more money."

Wardner said a lot of that burden would fall on property tax payers, for city and county law enforcement.

Carlson echoed Wardner's opposition.

"Today, they call that growing an illegal product," Carlson said. "It still is."

Carlson said if you worry about kids having access to marijuana, if you allow illegal growing of it, they will more easily get a hold of it.

"This is not wide-open recreational marijuana," Carlson said.

Wardner said he’s also heard a lot of complaint about the fee structure in the bill. But he said the state Health Department will be given the flexibility to adjust the fees through rule-making.