After nearly a year of planning, Grand Forks’ first medical marijuana dispensary is set to open this week.
Strive Life, 1809 13th Ave. N., held a soft opening Friday night and patients are welcome beginning Wednesday.
Owners David Hale and Jon O’Keefe said they’ve received overwhelmingly positive feedback from the community. The friends met in college and said they've spent the last year working to obtain the permits and approvals necessary to open one of the state’s few dispensaries.
North Dakota voters approved legalizing medical marijuana in 2016. The Legislature fine-tuned the law and the first dispensary opened in Fargo earlier this year.
There are currently more than 400 registered patients within the state, according to Hale and O’Keefe, but they’re unaware how many may be in or near the Grand Forks area.
To receive a recommendation for medical marijuana, patients must talk with their health care provider and apply through the Department of Health’s medical marijuana registration system. Numerous medical conditions qualify within the state, including anxiety disorder, migraines, post-traumatic stress disorder, cancer, terminal illnesses and more.
Hale, a former UND and NHL hockey player, said he wanted to open the dispensary to help people. His mother struggled with breast cancer and he saw how medical marijuana could have potentially helped her.
“I saw there could be benefits, but it just was not yet legal and that was such a hurdle,” he said. “So when the opportunity came up, Jon and I looked at each other and basically said ‘either we go for it 100% or we don’t.’ I definitely won’t regret being able to help and give back. We put our heart and soul into this.”
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The store did not have products at Friday’s soft opening, but plans to stock 16 options ranging from dried leaves and flowers to cannabinoid solutions. Staff will help patients find the best option for their needs.
Hale said they selected the 13th Avenue location because it met all of the dispensary requirements and they also hope to help revitalize the neighborhood. They said the building sat empty for quite awhile before renovations for Strive Life began.
“It’s a really large building, so we’ve still got some space left over,” Hale said. “It’s close to public transportation if the patients need that and it’s a level, fairly accessible property and it’s very secure, so those are all components.”
The building was remodeled inside and patients will check-in in the waiting room before entering restricted areas where products are kept. The office has vibrant greenery throughout and decorations shaped like the THC molecule hang near display cases.
Jodi Savat, who works in oncology at Altru Health Systems, said the business will fill a need for patients looking for alternative treatments. Her son, Chris Bucklin, is involved in Strive Life operations.
“I think it’s long overdue. … I think our oncology patients aren’t going to have to hide it anymore,” she said. “A lot of them use it and you never know what you’re going to get if you buy it off the streets. So now they know and it’s a safe place for them to come get it and there’s not going to be a stigma attached to it.”
Strive Life opens Wednesday at 10 a.m. to patients.
Details about North Dakota's medical marijuana program can be found at https://www.ndhealth.gov/mm/.