Medical marijuana supporters testify against proposed changes to Compassionate Care Act

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BISMARCK, N.D. - Voters passed an initiated measure intending to legalize medical marijuana on the November ballot, but implementation has faced some hurdles.

A packed house greeted lawmakers as they try to implement a medicinal cannabis law, but supporters of the original measure say they're straying too far from the bill's original intent.

"I feel as though pain is always with me. It always follows me around as if it were my shadow," said Erica Schmidt.

For medical marijuana supporters, it's not just about treatment.

"Chronic pain has made my daughter suicidal," said Maxine Schmidt, Erica's mom.

Cannabis is a lifeline where other drugs have failed.

"We thought she was brain damaged. It was medication," said Maxine.

"I feel as though medical marijuana could be useful," said Erica.

Lawmakers working through a rewrite of the Compassionate Care Act are allowing for liquid, pills and smokable marijuana, but would ban edibles.

"We're committed to doing this right, because once this horse is out of the barn, you're not going to get it back," said Sen. Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson.

The state would also set up four growing operations and eight dispensaries, banning home growing, citing potency regulation and law enforcement difficulties.

"The whole purpose of this when we started this bill was to make sure voters got a product they were looking for, but also making sure it was 100 percent safe for those people using it," said Rep. Al Carlson, R-Fargo.

At $200 a year, on top of the cost of medication, CCA supporters say the bill would price them out of the market.

"At the age of 21, I was not charged $200 to enter a liquor store. I was not charged $200 a year to get a prescription," said Maxine.

"Let's make it affordable, and let's do what's right for us patients. You guys aren't the one's suffering. You don't understand it," said Connie Falkenstein.

Opponents of the changes also want more flexibility in what doctors can suggest for children.

Lawmakers want the program self-sustaining financially in two years.

If lawmakers end up not passing this bill, law would revert back to the original ballot measure, which the attorney general's office said didn't actually decriminalize the drug.