Medical Marijuana Gets the Green Light in North Dakota

Medical Marijuana Gets the Green Light in North Dakota
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Medical marijuana is heading to North Dakota, where the Senate passed the Compassionate Care Act. [1]

Voters passed a law legalizing medical cannabis in November by a majority 64%, but lawmakers have been haggling over the details in the months since. The bill passed by the Senate was a rewrite of the original, authored after lawmakers said the law was unworkable and needed changes. [1] [2]

Gov. Doug Burgum said he plans to sign the bill after he and his staff have reviewed it. [2]

Senate Minority Leader Joan Heckaman, D-New Rockford, said:

“I don’t believe we’ve had a piece of legislation in recent sessions that’s had more hours of work put into it. When you go back to your districts, you will have constituents who will be excited to be able to access this for their own use or their loved one’s use, and that’s what this bill is all about.”

The health department expects 5 out of every 1,000 North Dakotas to use medical marijuana, and that number will grow exponentially. That estimate is based on the experiences of Delaware, where the number of registered patients rose from just 50 in the first year to more than 1,400 last year. [3]

Conditions that Qualify You for Medical Cannabis

People with “debilitating medical conditions” – including minors – can apply to the health department for a $50-per-year registry card. Prospective medical marijuana patients must be authorized by a doctor or nurse practitioner.

The qualifying conditions for medical marijuana in North Dakota include:

  • Cancer and its treatments
  • Hepatitis C
  • ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease
  • PTSD
  • Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or treatment of these conditions
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Chronic back pain, including:
    • Neuropathy or damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity
  • Glaucoma
  • Epilepsy
  • A chronic or debilitating disease, medical condition, or its treatment that produces one or more of the following:
    • Cachexia or wasting syndrome
    • Severe, debilitating pain that has not responded to previously prescribed medication or surgical measures for more than three months or for which other treatment options produced serious side effects
    • Intractable nausea
    • Seizures
    • Severe or persistent muscle spasms, including but not limited to those characterized by multiple sclerosis. [4]


In What Forms Can You Take It?

Medical cannabis will be allowed in the following forms:

  • Capsules
  • A topical product for the skin and hair
  • Tinctures
  • Patch
  • Smoking is allowed, but only if a doctor or nurse practitioner recommends the method. Patients under 19 are not allowed to smoke medical marijuana. [2] [3]

Edibles are not allowed. [1]

Other Details About the Program

Employers don’t have to allow medical marijuana in the workplace, and nursing homes and other care facilities can reasonably restrict its use. [3]

Users may possess no more than 2.5 oz. of dried leaves or flowers every 30 days, with no more than 3 oz. in possession at any one time. Patients can’t possess medical marijuana products that offer more than 2,000 mg of THC over a 30-day period. In pediatric patients, medical marijuana is limited to a maximum THC concentration of 6%.

Medical cannabis must be tested by the manufacturer or a certified laboratory for pesticides, mold, and other contaminants, and to ensure THC levels are accurately labeled.

The bill was stripped of a provision that was in the original measure which allowed patients who live more than 40 miles away from the nearest dispensary to cultivate up to 8 marijuana plants. [2]

Human Services Committee Chairwoman Sen. Judy Lee, R-West Fargo, considers the bill a living document that will need more revisions in the future.

“This is just going to be a work in progress. This is as good as we can get today.”


[1] Valley News Live

[2] West Fargo Pioneer

[3] MPR News

[4] Leafly