If North Dakota were to implement a legally regulated medical cannabis industry, they would need at least $3.5 million annually as well as many workers, according to North Dakota’s Health Department’s analysis. Of course, that is if a measure to legalize makes it onto the ballot in November and is approved by voters. The analysis was published late on Wednesday, not too long after Republican Governor Jack Dalrymple had a special meeting with the North Dakota Legislature in an attempt to handle a $310 million shortfall to the state treasury; they’ve concluded that there might be setbacks to the many agencies, including the Health Department. Rilie Ray Morgan, a Fargo financial planner who is leading the attempt to legalize medical cannabis purposes, called the projections an exaggeration and an attempt to stop the legalization efforts.
“Everybody knows the state is struggling financially,” stated Morgan, who would benefit from medical marijuana for his chronic pain. “Obviously, I don’t believe the state is in favor of this, and I believe they are grossly overinflating the amount of money and manpower that will be needed.”
The group collecting signatures for what is known as the North Dakota Compassionate Care Act submitted approximately 17,600 signatures last week. Advocates needed to have at least 13,500 qualified signatures in order for it to be on the ballot during November’s general election. Secretary of State Al Jaeger has around one month to decide whether the signatures were legitimate. The Health Department is neutral on the issue, according to Brenda Weisz, the agency’s accounting director. She and agency spokeswoman Colleen Reinke state that the review was just trying to provide “factual” data about the bill and its costs. The agency stated that the cost to regulate a medical cannabis program during the first two-year budget cycle would be $8.7 million. Every two years after that, the cost would be about $7.3 million and would need thirty-two more full-time employees.