Committee approves medical marijuana rules, patients to get access by end of 2018

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BISMARCK, N.D. - Sixteen months after voters voted in favor of medical marijuana, the rules regulating the program are approved. The rules take effect April 1, with patients hoping to get usable marijuana by the end of the year.

That gives people like Mary Rennich a feeling of hope.

"If they can implement this by November, December at the latest, I'll be over the moon. Everyone will be over the moon that needs this,” said Rennich.

Her son Sam suffers from seizures. She thinks this program will be life changing. Others think it's, too little too late. Dustin Peyer says his grandmother is out of time.

"She's ready to give up already. She's been in pain for weeks and she's over it. You know it is too late, it's too late for a lot of people,” said Peyer.

The program allows for 8 dispensaries across the state. There's been no shortage of interest, with more than 100 businesses saying they're interested. The question is, who follows through?

"I think that the cost is high. $90,000 for two years for a dispensary, that's considerable,” said Paul Aughinbaugh. He is considering applying for a dispensary. "Potential real estate, operations, employees, testing, all the analysis and regulations you'd have to go through. But at this point, we're moving forward with the process and the intent to move the application forward.”

Legislators asked questions about the program for nearly two hours before letting the rules take effect.

"Overall, I don't see that as an issue. It looks like they've come up with a pretty good plan that should allow people to have their access,” said Representative Robin Weisz, R-Hurtsfield.

Manufacturers will be allowed a maximum of 1,000 plants and dispensaries can have 3,500 ounces of products. It's not enough for some.

"The thousand plants isn't going to work when you go into pill and oil forms, it just won't be enough,” said Peyer.

But for others, it's a gift.

"I'm hoping that this will be our Thanksgiving or Christmas present to our son Sam and that his life will turn around and things will be better for him and we'll have new hope,” said Rennich.

Legislators are hoping to meet the end of year deadlines, but there are no guarantees. So what happens if the demand exceeds what the state can supply? Jason Wahl, the director of the Division of Medical Marijuana said that supply limits would have to be changed by the legislature, but the North Dakota Department of Health can approve additional facilities.