The North Dakota House on Monday passed a series of bills aimed at expanding the state's medical marijuana law.
Lawmakers passed four bills that would amend the state's medical marijuana law, including one that would add 13 new medical conditions to the current list of debilitating medical conditions.
Rep. Robin Weisz, R-Hurdsfield, chairman of the House Human Services Committee said Monday that his committee heard a number of bills related to the state's medical marijuana program. Some of the bills had "overlapping areas," so committee members, instead, identified four areas to include: doctor-patient relationship, additional conditions, increasing the allowable amount of medical marijuana and authorizing marijuana edibles.
The bills now move to the Senate for consideration.
Adding physician assistant
House Bill 1283 amended the definition of a health care provider under state medical marijuana law to include a physician assistant.
The law currently says only a physician or advanced practice registered nurse can recommend medical marijuana for a patient with a qualifying medical condition.
The bill also struck language in the law that states it's the provider's professional opinion that a patient would "receive therapeutic or palliative benefit" from the use of medical marijuana to alleviate their medical condition.
"We changed this so the doctor only has to say that they have one of the qualifying conditions," Rep. Matthew Ruby, R-Minot, a member of the House Human Services Committee.
Ruby said some doctors are concerned that if they recommend medical marijuana to a patient, it could jeopardize their medical license and malpractice insurance.
The bill passed 90-3.
'Enhanced amount of medical marijuana"
Another bill, House Bill 1417, would allow a qualifying registered patient or caregiver to purchase an "enhanced amount of medical marijuana."
Under the current law, they can purchase no more than 2.5 ounces of dried marijuana leaves or flowers within a 30-day period. The bill would change that to no more than 6 ounces of dried marijuana leaves or flowers.
Also, within a 30-day period, they may not have more than 7.5 ounces in their possession.
"A higher volume of cannabis may be needed by certain cancer patients that are undergoing treatment like chemotherapy that can cause extreme nausea and vomiting," said bill carrier Rep. Greg Westlind, R-Cando.
The bill passed 88-5.
13 new medical conditions
House Bill 1519 added 13 new medical conditions to the list of current qualifying conditions.
The new conditions include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, anxiety disorder, opioid use disorder, opioid withdrawal, migraine and autism spectrum disorder.
"Some of these conditions might seem odd to include, but I want to make it clear that they were vetted carefully and cross-referenced with other states for uniformity. They weren’t picked from a hat, and each and every one of them was reviewed by the Division of Medical Marijuana and the Attorney General’s office, as well," Ruby said.
Ruby also said it's important to note that all of the conditions can be diagnosed.
"Another one that might cause heartburn for some is the opioid use disorder and opioid withdrawal. I want to remind you that one of the reasons for this (medical marijuana) program was to help those who are susceptible, who know they are susceptible to opioids, to provide them with another option," he said.
Ruby also said, in comparing North Dakota's law with other states, North Dakota is in the "lower third" of the 33 states with such laws in the number of allowable medical conditions.
The bill also includes an interim study to examine the list of conditions and whether more should be added or removed. It passed 89-4.
A bill that drew some debate over whether it would "expose" children to marijuana also passed the House on Monday.
House Bill 1364 would add edible marijuana to medical marijuana products available for purchase. Currently, there are six types of products: dried leaves and flowers, tinctures, capsules, transdermal patches and topical.
An edible product would include a food or liquid in which marijuana concentrate or dried leaves or flowers are incorporated.
Under the bill, the maximum amount of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, in a product would be 5 milligrams. The maximum amount of servings in a package may not exceed 10, and a package may not have more than 50 milligrams of THC.
Also, the state Health Council would establish rules to regulate the form, packaging and marketing of edibles. And the state Division of Medical Marijuana would approve every product manufactured before it can be sold by a dispensary, according to bill carrier Westlind.
Manufacturers could not sell products that target minors, for example, gummy bears, he said.
Some lawmakers questioned whether the bill could enable children access to marijuana edibles.
"We keep hearing ads on TV and (in the) newspaper about making sure you’ve got your drugs locked up in your medicine cabinet or wherever. Does this expose our young children if you have a plate of brownies or a plate of cookies … out for young kids to get into them?" said Rep. Wayne Trottier, R-Northwood.
The bill sponsor Rep. Gretchen Dobervich, D-Fargo, said parents would have to be responsible for where they keep their edibles.
"There has to be a certain level of parental responsibility or adult responsibility in the home, just like Tide pods. We have to keep our laundry soap out of the reach of kids now, as well," Dobervich said.
The bill passed 72-21.