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Petition focused on signatures first

BISMARCK - Opponents of North Dakota's pharmacy ownership law are focusing on getting the 13,452 signatures needed for the repeal petition, but fundraising isn't a top priority yet.

BISMARCK - Opponents of North Dakota's pharmacy ownership law are focusing on getting the 13,452 signatures needed for the repeal petition, but fundraising isn't a top priority yet.

When valid petitions are turned in to the secretary of state's office and the issue is on the 2012 ballot, organizers will turn efforts to garnering both state and nationwide support, said Duane Sand, organizer of the effort to repeal the law.

The first wave of petitions with room for 5,000 signatures is out, he said.

"People are out aggressively getting those," Sand said.

The petition seeks to reverse a state law that requires pharmacies to be owned by licensed pharmacists - preventing some retailers, such as Walmart or Walgreens, from operating pharmacies in their North Dakota stores.

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Signatures must be turned into the secretary of state's office by July 16, 2012, to get the issue on the November 2012 ballot.

Despite a missed opportunity to gather signatures at the State Fair in Minot because it was canceled, Sand said organizers will make up for it at events over the next 11 months and at fairs next summer.

"But we're not going to be aggressively recruiting cash for this effort until we get the signatures collected," said Sand, who expects the ballot measure campaign will cost $500,000 to $1 million.

So far, organizers have received major donations of "several thousand dollars" from retailers Pamida and Shopko.

Pamida has six North Dakota locations, but Shopko has yet to open a pharmacy in the state. Minnesota, however, has 16 Shopko pharmacies.

Sand said he doesn't know the total contributions so far, and referred financial questions to Dan Traynor, a Devils Lake attorney who Sand said is in charge of the group's treasury. Traynor said he couldn't give the information and that Sand was in charge of the treasury.

Sand said Walmart was a major supporter of last year's petition drive that was ruled invalid because organizers neglected to include a list of the measure's sponsors when they circulated petitions. But so far the group's only work with Walmart has been to gather signatures within stores, Sand said.

Walmart didn't respond to an email from The Forum seeking comment. A Target spokeswoman said the Minnesota-based company is aware of the initiative but had no comment at this time. A Walgreens spokesman said the company continues to monitor and support "measures that will give North Dakota residents access to affordable prescription drugs and health care."

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Heidi Shaffer at (701) 241-5511

Related Topics: BISMARCKHEALTH
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