In a somewhat surprising turn of events (for lawmakers in the state, at least), voters overwhelmingly approved the North Dakota Compassionate Care Act in November’s election, with nearly 65% voting in favor of medical marijuana. The new law allows a variety of medical cannabis products to be used by patients with any of a dozen or so conditions and was expected to go into effect soon – but an “emergency” bill was introduced by the House and Senate which will delay the implementation of the law until the end of July, if it’s passed.
Specifically, Senate Bill 2154 delays the part of the law that would allow the North Dakota Department of Health to accept and process applications in order for them (and the state) to determine the regulations that will govern the new medical marijuana program. If lawmakers and the Department of Health are able to finish this prior to July 31st, then this delay could be ended if the state chooses to implement the Compassionate Care Act sooner.
“They need this time to get it all set up so it’s done correctly,” Wardner said in a joint meeting of the House and Senate Human Services committees Monday morning. “It is not to stop the use of medical marijuana.”
The Compassionate Care Act will allow patients to possess up to three ounces of medical marijuana, as well as grow it in their homes or purchase it at a dispensary; but now this will all be put off until lawmakers are satisfied with the regulations governing growers, processors and dispensers of the plant. All we can do is hope that they move forward quickly – and Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner has said that he expects a bill that starts setting up medical marijuana regulations will be introduced within a week.
In 2015, lawmakers shut down the option to legalize medical marijuana themselves – and it was at that point that activists decided to stop waiting and work on the Compassionate Care Act. Now that lawmakers don’t have a choice, they will likely spend the next six months arguing over what should and should not be allowed in the state as far as medical marijuana goes.
There was talk among lawmakers about what products should be allowed – but Sheri Paulson, a resident and volunteer for the campaign behind the Compassionate Care Act who testified against House Bill 2154, says that what sort of products patients should be allowed to use is best left to be dealt with between doctors and patients. This makes tons of sense, after all, what do lawmakers know about medical cannabis anyway?
Over the next six months we have to hope that we don’t see any drastic changes or unnecessary restrictions put on the North Dakota Compassionate Care Act – and also hope that they stick to getting this done in a timely manner and that July 31st is the longest it will take them to implement the law passed by voters.