North Dakota lawmakers seek delay in medical cannabis rollout

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North Dakota lawmakers, apparently taken by surprise when state voters approved a medical marijuana ballot initiative, are likely to pass a measure delaying the rollout by several months to give them more time to iron out the details.

Residents of the Republican-leaning state legalized MMJ on Nov. 8 with 64% of the vote. The law took effect Dec. 8, 2016. But lawmakers want to push back that date, which is when state health regulators must begin implementing the program by drafting regulations governing areas such as licensing and and enrolling patients.

According to the Bismarck Tribune, Senate Bill 2154 would delay the North Dakota Department of Health from issuing applications for MMJ dispensaries and receiving applications as well as issuing certificates of registration.

Lawmakers said Monday more time is needed to implement the MMJ program correctly, according to the Associated Press, and they were weighing a delay in the implementation until the end of July.

Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers said state health officials and law enforcement are still figuring out details of the new law, including what type and potency of marijuana should be available and who will oversee distributors.

The AP reported that legislation delaying the law is expected to pass this week in both the state House and Senate. It requires a two-thirds vote to pass. It’s not clear whether the state’s Republican governor, Doug Burgum, would sign it.

“This in no way is to try to stop the process,” Republican Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner said, according to the AP. “Nobody is playing games with this. Everybody respects the will of the people.”

A separate bill is expected to be introduced next week dealing with regulatory oversight.