The director of the State Health Department’s Medical Marijuana division says the plan is to have medical marijuana available in North Dakota by the end of the calendar year.
Jason Wahl told the Legislature’s Administrative Rules committee – a big hurdle was the approval of the new administrative rules governing it.
"The Department is committing to implementing this program as quickly as it can," Wahl told the Committee. "It needs to insure the program is implemented in a well-regulated manner."
The Committee took a look at the proposed rules – and decided they should go forward.
"The Department is now anticipating opening up an application period, for entities interested in becoming manufacturing facilities, by the end of this week," Wahl said.
Wahl said once the two manufacturing facilities have been chosen, the Department will start the process to pick eight dispensaries.
"We'll be able to get a more firm timeline from the two applicants that move forward for a manufacturing facility," Wahl said. "We'll use that information to establish the open application period for dispensaries."
Those eight dispensaries will be within a 50 mile radius of Fargo, Bismarck-Mandan, Jamestown. Dickinson, Grand Forks, Devils Lake, Minot and Williston. Wahl said the rules will allow the dispensaries to have a delivery service to bring the medical marijuana to patients who are not able to travel.
The Health Department is awaiting an Attorney General’s opinion on whether medical marijuana manufacturers, or “grow centers,” would run afoul of North Dakota’s anti-corporate farming law.
But some members of the Legislature’s Administrative Rules Committee say that was addressed in the bill passed in the 2017 Legislature.
Wahl said the opinion was requested after the department received some feedback.
"The Department had been hearing questions from individuals and state agencies about that," Wahl said.
North Dakota law prohibits corporations from owning farmland.
Rep. Robin Weisz (R-Hurdsfield) told the Committee that question has already been answered.
"We added additional language within the bill to make it clear these were not considered to be agricultural operations," Weisz said. "So I'm trying to understand where there should be any conflict."