BISMARCK — The North Dakota House of Representatives has endorsed a bipartisan bill that would allow the state's eight medical cannabis dispensaries to sell edible products.

The lower chamber voted 63-31 on Thursday, Feb. 18, to send House Bill 1391 to the Senate. The proposal would allow more than 4,600 registered medical marijuana patients to buy lozenges containing up to 10 milligrams of tetrahydrocannabinol. Similar legislation narrowly failed in 2019.

The North Dakota House of Representatives voted 63-21 on Thursday, Feb. 18, to advance House Bill 1391. Screenshot via North Dakota Legislature
The North Dakota House of Representatives voted 63-21 on Thursday, Feb. 18, to advance House Bill 1391. Screenshot via North Dakota Legislature

Voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure legalizing medical marijuana in 2016 despite opposition from many Republican politicians. Lawmakers then reworked the policies outlined in the measure, arguing the law approved by the public was too faulty to implement.

Fargo Democratic Rep. Gretchen Dobervich, the bill's primary sponsor, said during testimony the voters always intended to allow medical marijuana edibles and some patients who need the option have been forced to make their own at home.

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On the other end of the political spectrum, Republican Bismarck Rep. Rick Becker voiced support for the bill, saying it's ironic that the state is working so hard to decrease smoking but won't allow patients to take their medicine through a popular alternative method.

The main opposition to the bill came from Republicans who worried children could mistakenly eat the edibles after confusing them for candy. Jamestown Republican Rep. Bernie Satrom said his local police chief told him edibles are the biggest threat to kids in states that have legalized recreational marijuana. The bill includes a provision prohibiting the marketing of edibles aimed at minors.

The changes to North Dakota's medical marijuana program come as a bipartisan group of lawmakers attempts to legalize pot for recreational use. The proposal, House Bill 1420, picked up a narrow "do-pass" recommendation on Wednesday and will likely head to the powerful House Appropriations Committee before going to a vote of the entire chamber. A companion bill would establish a 15% tax rate for consumers buying marijuana and 15% levy on retailers selling the drug, but it would only go into effect if the legalization effort succeeds.