Medical marijuana qualifications in North Dakota looked to be set when voters approved a measure in November 2016 called the North Dakota Compassionate Care Act. The approval margin was quite substantial, 64-32 percent, but legislators decided to alter the measure during the 2017 legislative session.
North Dakota medical marijuana qualifications cover a wide range of conditions. Residents of the state who suffer from these conditions can obtain cannabis from dispensaries, which are known as “compassion centers.” These are the conditions that qualified as of this writing:
Unfortunately, there is no petition process to add new conditions, because legislators eliminated that provision. There is still a lot we don’t know regarding the benefits of medical marijuana. As that understanding grows, we will undoubtedly find that cannabis can help alleviate symptoms associated with many more health issues. But in North Dakota, there will be no way to petition the state government to expand the list of qualifying conditions. As a result, it is very unclear if there will be an opportunity to expand that list in the future.
While the measure approved by voters allowed patients living more than 40 miles from a dispensary to cultivate up to eight plants at home, legislators eliminated that provision. As a result, patients or their caregivers will have to travel in order to obtain therapeutic cannabis. Since there will only be eight dispensaries allowed to open in the state, that could prove to be a major burden for some patients.
One of the biggest areas of debate regarding the medical cannabis program in North Dakota centered around smoking the plant. The state Senate voted to allow smoking, but only if a recommending physician could find no other way of using cannabis that would be beneficial to the patient.
The amended measure also considers anyone under the age of 19 to be a minor. As a result, an 18-year-old who may have served his or her country overseas and developed PTSD will not be able to legally obtain medicinal cannabis without permission from his or her parents or guardians. And minors are not able to use the types of products adult patients are allowed to access, such as topical creams, patches, tinctures and more. They will only be able to use a special oil made specifically for pediatric patients.
There was a lot of confusion at the time voters approved the medical cannabis measure, largely because state legislators didn’t expect that approval to occur. As a result, there are still many major regulatory issues that need to be ironed out.
Patients who meet North Dakota medical marijuana qualifications must obtain a patient identification card in order to access therapeutic weed. While the original measure called for a $200 fee, that was later lowered to $50. They must not only submit the fee, they must also provide a written recommendation for marijuana use from a doctor with whom they have a “bona fide” doctor/patient relationship.
The state Department of Health is responsible for approving applications and issuing identification cards. The department is supposed to issue cards within 30 days of approval.
Patients may designate caregivers to obtain their medical cannabis if they are unable to do so on their own. Caregivers also have to obtain an identification card. The application process involves consenting to a criminal background check — anyone who has been convicted of a felony will not be eligible.