Lawmakers in North Dakota weren’t counting on voters approving the medical marijuana amendment in November’s election – but they did with 65% in favor. Since then they have already passed a bill to delay parts of the amendment that would allow the Department of Health to accept and process applications for processors or patients and allow more time for regulations for the industry to be put into place. So it should come as no surprise that the interference didn’t stop there.
Now the Senate has passed Senate Bill 2344, which will make major changes to the amendment passed by voters. In order to make changes to a constitutional amendment they need at least two thirds of the vote in both the Senate and the House. Now it only needs to pass by a similar majority in the House, which is expected to happen, and then the lawmakers will have effectively overridden some key aspects of the amendment.
One of the most opposed changes to the bill is the fact that it removes the provision allowing patients the option to grow their own medicine at home – which will end up making the medicine more expensive for patients who may not be able to afford it. It also gets rid of a provision allowing patients to smoke, changing it to where they can only smoke if a physician believes that another form (capsules, oils, etc.) wouldn’t be sufficient for their treatment.
“It’s not the state’s responsibility to make it as expensive as possible for a person who needs medical marijuana to be able to afford it,” Piepkorn said. “This is going to be way out of reach for the average person.”
These changes are likely to lower the number of people who actually sign up for the medical marijuana program in North Dakota, which could be a problem considering licensing fees and ID card fees are expected to pay for the new industry going forward. However they also pointed out that fewer people – meaning those who would have chosen to grow cannabis at home who likely cannot afford medicine at a dispensary – means less will be needed for enforcement of the industry from both an oversight and law enforcement point of view.
It’s unfortunate to see a voter approved amendment being changed so drastically – all because lawmakers feel that they know what is best for patients, without ever even consulting a healthcare professional for an opinion on the subject. The bill has already passed through the Senate and it likely will not be long before we see a final vote from the House of Representatives – who could alter the bill further, though if they did it would require an additional vote from the Senate before heading on to the governor.