BISMARCK -- North Dakota lawmakers were adamant Monday, Jan. 16, that they were not trying to deny the will of the people with a proposal to delay parts of the recently passed medical marijuana law.

The bill, introduced by legislative leadership from both sides of the aisle, would delay certain provisions of the Compassionate Care Act to give the North Dakota Department of Health more time to set up rules governing medical marijuana, said Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson. He pointed to financial and social costs if it’s not properly regulated.   

“They need this time to get it all set up so it’s done correctly,” Wardner said in a joint meeting of the House and Senate Human Services committees Monday morning. “It is not to stop the use of medical marijuana.”

Senate Bill 2154 suspends parts of the medical marijuana law that relates to the Department of Health’s issuance of applications and certificates of registration, along with its receipt of applications for registration. The suspension is effective through July 31 or the effective date of legislation authorizing the prescription, dispensing, growth and use of medical marijuana, whichever comes first.

Wardner said he expects a bill setting up medical marijuana regulations will be introduced within a week.

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In November, almost 64 percent of North Dakota voters passed an initiated measure legalizing the use of marijuana for defined medical conditions. Later that month, the Health Department said it was taking steps toward implementing the new law, but that didn’t mean qualifying patients would be able to obtain marijuana for medical uses “immediately.”

Sheri Paulson, a Galesburg, N.D., resident who was a volunteer behind the drive for the Compassionate Care Act, testified against the bill, although she said after the meeting that she understood the need for a delay. She took issue with, however, suggestions about what specific products should be allowed.

“That should be more what the doctor’s prescribing,” Paulson said.

House Human Services Committee Chairman Robin Weisz, R-Hurdsfield, said the bill sets an “aggressive schedule” with the July 31 expiration.

“I think it’s pretty apparent that nobody’s trying to delay this,” he said.

The Senate Human Services Committee gave a “do-pass” recommendation to the bill, which will be on the Senate floor Tuesday, said Chairwoman Judy Lee, R-West Fargo.

Meanwhile, a House committee gave a “do-pass” recommendation Monday to a bill that would prohibit the payment of wage loss benefits if an injury was related to the use of medical marijuana. It also prevents North Dakota Workforce Safety and Insurance, the state’s workers’ compensation system administrator, from paying for medical marijuana

The bill’s primary sponsor, Rep. George Keiser, R-Bismarck, pointed to conflicting state and federal laws and a lack of information for the drug.

“Before jumping into that issue, we want to see the data that supports and justifies the use of medical marijuana for work-related injuries,” he said.