North Dakota Senate advances bill that might ease access to medical marijuana

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North Dakota’s state Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill aimed at increasing the number of residents who could gain certification to use medical cannabis.

Medical marijuana firms took note of the move since it could boost the MMJ market in the conservative state.

State Senators voted 43-0 in favor of removing a requirement in state law that health professionals who certify a patient attest that medical marijuana will actually help that person.

The North Dakota House earlier approved a similar bill.

The medical community has cited several concerns in certifying patients, including that marijuana is still technically illegal under federal law and that research on its benefits is lacking.

State lawmakers also have approved legislation to expand the number of qualifying conditions, but the Senate version would increase the number from 17 only to 21 while the House version would expand conditions to 30.

The legislative changes to state medical marijuana law are not yet final.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • The North Dakota House must concur with the Senate on the bill to expand qualifying conditions, and Gov. Doug Burgum, a Republican, then must decide whether to sign the bills.
  • Spokesman Mike Nowatzki said the governor supports legalized medical marijuana in general but has not taken a position on any of the specific bills.
  • North Dakota’s first medical marijuana dispensary opened March 1, but potential customer numbers remain low.

The state reported March 14 that only about 160 patients were certified to buy medical cannabis, although officials have said they expect that number to increase to as many as 4,000 by 2021.

– Associated Press and Marijuana Business Daily