North Dakota Senate rejects bill allowing for edible medical marijuana products
BISMARCK — North Dakota senators narrowly rejected a bill Monday, March 25, allowing medical marijuana users to buy edible products amid fears children could access the drug.
More than half of the Senate supported House Bill 1364, but it fell three votes short of the two-thirds majority needed to amend a recent ballot measure.
State legislators rewrote the law stemming from a successful 2016 measure last session, arguing that it was too flawed to implement. Supporters said the edibles bill, championed by Fargo Democratic Rep. Gretchen Dobervich, was in line with voters' original intent.
The state Department of Health, which regulates the medical marijuana program, supported the bill. It warned patients may try to make edible products on their own and end up taking an improper dosage.
Jason Wahl, the state's top medical marijuana regulator, said the department would have outlined what edible products were allowed through an administrative rulemaking process that includes lawmaker approval. He expected a narrow product line initially.
The chairwoman of the Senate Human Services Committee, West Fargo Republican Sen. Judy Lee, said she became convinced to support the bill in part because it would have made it easier for certain patients to ingest the drug, such as people with dementia.
"I've come to the acceptance of the fact that it's one form that we do need to make available under controlled circumstances," she said.
But opponents raised worries over children getting their hands on candy infused with medical marijuana and urged their colleagues to give the new program more time to develop.
"Let's give this a chance to have some legs," said Sen. Oley Larsen, R-Minot.
The first of eight planned dispensaries across the state opened in Fargo earlier this month. Wahl said a second one in Grand Forks could open in the next couple of months.
More than 220 patients have been issued registration cards so far, Wahl said.
The bill was one of several moving through the Legislature tweaking the state's medical marijuana law. Still alive are bills aimed at alleviating physician concerns about recommending a federally illegal drug, allowing cancer patients to obtain more medical marijuana and adding ailments eligible for the program.