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Despite 40 amendments, North Dakota medical marijuana backers say proposed regs are flawed

By: The Associated Press

BISMARCK, N.D. — Backers of a successful North Dakota citizen initiative to allow marijuana to be used as medicine said Thursday they still aren’t happy with new rules governing its use, despite a major rewrite by lawmakers.

Fargo financial planner Rilie Ray Morgan headed the initiative campaign and said another citizen initiative is still possible if the current bill stands.

A big sticking point is restrictions on smoking marijuana as medicine. The bill passed by the Senate allows patients to smoke it only if a physician finds no other form of marijuana would help. A House committee has taken out that provision but a doctor — or now a nurse practitioner — still must recommend smoking marijuana as medicine for people who suffer from some diseases.

Morgan said no medical professional would ever recommend smoking anything.

The measure, called the North Dakota Compassionate Care Act, won 65 percent voter approval in November. It allows the use of marijuana as medicine for people who suffer from one of several debilitating illnesses.

The bipartisan bill also removed provisions that would have allowed growing marijuana as medicine.

The 82-page bill spells out how medical marijuana would be overseen in the state. The North Dakota Senate passed it last month by more than the needed two-thirds majority to amend the citizen initiative.

Rep. Robin Weisz, chairman of the state House’s Human Services Committee, said the panel worked for three days this week making more than 40 amendments to the Senate version of the bill, in part to appease backers of the initiative.

The amendments, which were still being crafted Thursday, also would lower annual fees for medical marijuana users from $200 to $50, and would add “terminal illness” to the list of acceptable illnesses that qualify for medical pot use. The committee has refused to budge on allowing forms of edible marijuana to be used as medicine.

“This is certainly a compromise,” Weisz said. “But the vast majority of people who voted for this are getting what they want.”

The House is expected to adopt the committee’s amendments on Friday, and a vote by the entire House is expected next week. Representative also must pass the bill by a two-thirds majority or the original voter-approved version goes on the books.

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