In early 2017, North Dakota Governor Doug Burnum signed the revised North Dakota Compassionate Care Act into law. The act, which was originally voter-initiated, directs the North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH) to establish a medical marijuana program. In order to fulfill its obligations, the NDDoH created a new Division of Medical Marijuana to oversee the program and begin drafting rules to be filed with the state’s Legislative Council.

By mid-2017, the state’s program took its first steps toward creating a fully licensed and regulated medical marijuana industry. To begin the licensing process, the Division requested that any entity interested in becoming a registered “compassion center” (cultivator/manufacturer or dispensary) submit a letter of intent. Upon receipt, state officials planned to reply to each letter with a Request for Proposal (RFP) and further application directions.

At this point, applicants still interested in obtaining a license are expected to respond with a complete proposal and a $5,000 non-refundable fee. An Evaluation Committee will then score the proposals according to ND law (NDCC 19-24.1). The Committee will weigh factors such asL

  • The applicant-owner’s qualifications and character
  • Suitability of physical facilities
  • Day-to-day plan of operations
  • Entity/financial structure
  • Employment standards/proposed code of conduct
  • Patient service plans
  • Environmental plans

If their proposal is approved, applicants must pay a $90,000 fee for a dispensary license or a $110,000 fee for a cultivator-manufacturer license. Officials plan to license two cultivator-manufacturers and up to eight dispensaries.

At the end of the letter submission period, the Division reportedly received letters from 115 different entities. Shortly thereafter, the Division made a public RFP directed at marijuana seed-to-sale tracking system companies. In addition, similar to the steps taken in order to identify potential compassion centers, the Division requested that all entities interested in opening testing labs submit letters of intent. The deadlines to submit testing lab letters and tracking proposals were in August and early December, respectively.

Now, as the year closes, the Division hopes to collect public comments on its proposed set of administrative rules. Though it seems as if everything is rolling along smoothly, NDDoH officials have stressed that they are still about a year away from having a fully operational program for patients. It is just a waiting game from here on out, as ND carefully charts its course to avoid the problems that have befallen many other states’ programs.

Juliana Minn is a Data Analyst at Cannabiz Media, where she researches cannabis licenses and policies across several states. A graduate of Lewis & Clark Law School, Juliana focused on intellectual property law and small business law, enabling her to advise numerous fledgling businesses throughout law school and to the present day. When she’s not geeking out over the finer points of the Copyright Act or commercial cannabis licensing data, she can be found taking on pro bono legal work at Lewis & Clark’s Small Business Legal Clinic.