Health Department hears public comments on medical marijuana

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BISMARCK, N.D. - The legislature took a look at the medical marijuana measure after it passed and then passed some additional regulations. Now, the health department is adding on more administrative rules that need to pass before patients can get their hands on medical cannabis.

The fight for medical marijuana in the state started in December of 2015 when petitions were submitted to the Secretary of State's Office. Now, residents are being told they have to wait even longer to receive what voters and the legislature have approved.

"If I were able to get started with construction in April, it is feasible that I would have usable marijuana by next November," said R. Pete Daniels, potential grower.

Daniels intends to apply to grow medical marijuana but cannot even begin planning for a crop because the future is so uncertain. The health department is touring the state gathering comments on nearly 50 pages of administrative rules.

"We need to make this happen as soon as we possibly can. I understand administrative rules meets in March. The Health Department needs to make sure they're ready and they can meet that deadline," said Mary Rennich, advocate.

The rules committee that will approve the new guidelines only meets once every three months, adding to the delay.

Rennich thinks cannabis would help her son.

"I have a son who has really severe epilepsy and we have tried over 20 medications to try to stop those seizures," said Rennich.

Some advocates say that medical marijuana could alleviate one of the state’s other drug problems.

"The states in the grips of an opioid epidemic and the states that have legalized marijuana have seen a drop in opioid related deaths by 30%," said Daniels.

The rules committee will meet on March 14th, if approved, the new rules they will go into effect on April 1st of 2018.

If everything goes smoothly and news rules go into effect, patients can apply for their medical cards starting April 1st. However, it could take 30 days for those to be approved, and another 45 days for them to be issued.