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Impact of Medical Marijuana On Local Communities

by | Jan 11, 2017 | Municipal Law and Water Law |

On November 8, 2016, North Dakota voters took to the ballot box and approved Measure 5, a measure legalizing medical marijuana use in the State of North Dakota. During the recent 65th Legislative Session, however, North Dakota lawmakers repealed and replaced Measure 5’s language with Senate Bill No. 2344 which was enacted with the swipe of the Governor’s pen on April 17, 2017. The language of Senate Bill No. 2344 was then incorporated into the North Dakota Century Code as Chapter 19-24.1. The new law authorizes the North Dakota Department of Health (the “Department”) to regulate medical marijuana, but local governments have a say in where compassion centers are located.

N.D.C.C. Chapter 19-24.1 authorizes the Department to oversee the application, licensing, and operation of compassion centers, compassion center agents, qualifying patients, and designated caregivers. Regulating compassion centers consists of manufacturing facilities that grow the product and dispensaries that distribute the product to designated caregivers and qualifying patients. Under the new law, there can be no more than two manufacturing facilities statewide and no more than eight dispensaries statewide. In addition to restricting the number of approved compassion centers, the new law states that these facilities may not be located within 1,000 feet of a preexisting school and the applicants must comply with local zoning laws. Under N.D.C.C. § 19-24.1-14(1)(d)(1), before a compassion center application may be approved, the applicant must provide [e]vidence of approval from local officials as to the proposed compassion center applicant’s compliance with local zoning laws for the physical address to be used by the proposed compassion center.

Because of the somewhat limited restrictions on the location of these facilities, the City of West Fargo desired to create additional guidelines on their location. The City of West Fargo created and enacted Ordinance No. 1102 which states compassion centers may not be located within 1,250 feet of a preexisting school, daycare facility, or any property zoned residential. The facilities must also provide access to law enforcement or the City’s health officer to ensure the facilities comply with local, state, and federal laws. The purpose of this ordinance is to conserve and promote the public health, safety, and general welfare of the community.

Due to the limited number of compassion centers, there is a possibility that the facilities will be located in larger cities like Fargo and West Fargo to provide access to the highest number of patients. Because of this, the City of West Fargo took a proactive approach in establishing local zoning regulations that compassion centers will have to follow before the North Dakota Department of Health will issue a compassion center license. Implementing local zoning regulations allows local governments to provide input in the application approval process of compassion centers that grow and manufacture medical marijuana in cities across North Dakota.

*The information provided in this letter is of a general nature and should not be acted upon without prior discussion with your Ohnstad Twichell, P.C., attorney.