This document is intended to provide North Dakota cannabis entrepreneurs with an overview of the state’s medical cannabis regulations. It also includes links to additional resources including license applications for producers and dispensaries.
A brief history of North Dakota cannabis regulations
After remaining illegal in the state for over 80 years, North Dakota cannabis policy reform now seems to be in full swing with an operational marijuana program and talk of potential legalization for adult recreational use.
After a failed attempt to establish a medical marijuana program in 2015, North Dakota voters approved Measure 5 in the midterm elections of Nov. 2016. The state’s medical marijuana laws permit the production, processing, sale, dispensing, and medical use of marijuana by qualifying patients and caregivers.
To the dismay of activists who backed the initiative, the measure was revised in 2017 by the state legislature. Among the list of revisions, a home growing provision was removed. The medical marijuana program officially went into effect on Apr. 18 of 2017. In May 2018, Pure Dakota LLC and Grassroots Cannabis were granted licenses for cannabis manufacturing facilities. However, it wasn’t until July 10, 2018, that the North Dakota Department of Health (“the department”) opened up the application process for medical cannabis dispensary licenses. North Dakota cannabis regulations call for the licensing of up to eight dispensaries.
Earlier in March of 2019, the first state-licensed dispensary opened in North Dakota, and three additional dispensaries are expected to begin sales the same year. In total, state laws permit up to eight dispensaries. Two cultivation facilities have also been licensed.
On a side note, the cultivation of industrial hemp is also legal in North Dakota.
In Nov. 2018, North Dakota voters rejected Measure 2, a recreational marijuana ballot initiative that would have legalized the recreational use of marijuana by all adults age 21 or over. However, activists are now working to put a new marijuana legalization measure on the June 2020 ballot.
In 2014, a poll conducted by the University of North Dakota found that North Dakotans were against legalizing recreational marijuana, 24-68. Four years later, however, a 2018 poll showed that North Dakotans favored the recreational marijuana ballot initiative 46-39 with 15 percent undecided.
State Laws and Administrative Rules
This document is up to date as of the end of August 2019.
The complete legal code regarding medical marijuana regulations in North Dakota can be found here:
Recent changes to North Dakota cannabis regulations
North Dakota lawmakers revised the state’s medical marijuana laws in 2017. The changes also resulted in the decriminalization of the possession of small amounts of marijuana.
Recent changes to North Dakota cannabis regulations include:
- Adding 12 qualifying conditions to the list of debilitating ailments that can be treated by medical marijuana.
- Allowing an MMJ manufacturing facility to cultivate 1,000-plus plants to ensure demand is met.
- Expanding the definition of health-care provider to include physician assistants, who now are permitted to write MMJ certifications.
- No longer requiring health-care providers to note whether a patient is likely to receive therapeutic or palliative benefits from MMJ.
- Reclassifies and reduces criminal penalties for marijuana possession:
- Half an ounce or less: infraction with a maximum $1,000 fine
- More than half an ounce but not more than 500 grams: Class B misdemeanor (maximum penalty of 30 days imprisonment and/or a fine of $1,500)
- More than 500 grams: Class A misdemeanor (maximum penalty of 360 days imprisonment and/or a fine of $3,000)
- Reclassifies possession of marijuana paraphernalia as an infraction
- An individual’s third infraction within a year may be treated as a Class B misdemeanor.
- Calls on the legislature to “consider studying the implications of the potential adoption of an initiated measure allowing the use of recreational marijuana.”
- Extends clear legal protections to patients, caregivers, medical marijuana businesses, and their staff. Measure 5 lacked these protections.
Overview of North Dakota cannabis regulations
Below are some of the major bullet points related to cannabis regulations in North Dakota.
- Products - Dispensaries are permitted to sell smokable flower, however, doctors must specifically certify patients to use this form of cannabis. Edibles and concentrates are not permitted. Permitted medical cannabis products include:
- Purchase and possession limits - Both patients and their caregivers are allowed to possess no more than a 30-day supply of useable marijuana as determined by the Department of Health. Qualified patients 19 and older may purchase up to 2.5 ounces of medical cannabis in its smokable form over a 30-day period without authorization from a health-care provider. Qualifying cancer patients may purchase up to 6 ounces of medical marijuana over a 30-day period.
- Home cultivation - Home cultivation of marijuana by licensed medical patients is prohibited under the most recent revisions. Originally, Measure 5 allowed patients living 40 or more miles from a dispensary to grow cannabis in an enclosed and locked facility at their homes.
- Patient Requirements - Patients must apply to the Department of Health medical marijuana patient registry to receive an identification card. A written certification from a doctor confirming the patient suffers from one of the qualifying conditions is required. The patient and doctor must have a bona fide relationship.
- Minor patients - Anyone under the age of 19 is considered a minor under North Dakota’s medical marijuana laws. Minors must have the consent of a parent or guardian and are only allowed to consume a special pediatric marijuana oil.
- Fees - Patient ID cards will cost $50.
- Qualifying conditions - To qualify, a patient must have one or more of the following medical conditions:
- Any terminal illness
- Hepatitis C
- PTSD (under certain circumstances)
- Agitation from Alzheimer’s disease
- Crohn’s disease
- Spinal stenosis
- Chronic back pain (including neuropathy or damage to the nervous tissues of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity)
- Any medical condition that produces cachexia or wasting
- Severe and debilitating pain that has not responded to previously prescribed medication or surgical measures for more than three months or for which other treatment options produced serious side effects
- Intractable nausea
- Severe and persistent muscle spasms.
- Caregivers - Approved medical marijuana patients may designate a caregiver to assist with the purchase and use of medical marijuana. Caregivers must be 21 years of age or older, have no felony convictions. A licensed caregiver is permitted to serve up to five patients.
- Dispensaries - North Dakota medical marijuana laws call for the licensing of eight dispensaries, aka “compassionate care centers.”
- Applicant fees - Compassion center applicants must pay a $5,000 non-refundable application fee.
- Licensing fees - Licensing fees for compassion centers in North Dakota:
- Dispensaries - 90,000
- Manufacturing facilities - $110,000
- Producers - Producers are permitted to acquire, store, process, transfer, and transport medical marijuana for the sole purpose of selling medical cannabis products to licensed dispensaries.
- Dispensaries - Dispensaries are permitted to purchase medical cannabis products from a licensed manufacturing facility, only, as well as to store, deliver, transfer, and transport medical marijuana, for the sole purpose of dispensing to a registered qualifying patient or caregiver. Dispensaries are also permitted to provide educational material and related supplies to patients and caregivers.
- Criminal background check - Each compassion center agent must consent to a criminal history record check. All applicable fees associated with the required criminal history record checks must be paid by the compassion center or the agent. Any individual convicted of a drug-related misdemeanor offense within the five-year period before the date of application or any felony offense is prohibited from being a compassion center agent.
North Dakota compassion centers application requirements
In order to apply for a compassion center license, applicants must submit the following fees and documentation:
- A nonrefundable application fee of $5 thousand payable to the "North Dakota State Department of Health, Medical Marijuana Program/"
- The legal name, articles of incorporation or articles of organization
- Bylaws or operating agreement
- Evidence of the proposed compassion center applicant's registration with the secretary of state and certificate of good standing.
- The physical address of the proposed location of the proposed compassion center
- Evidence 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.
- Evidence the physical address of the proposed compassion center is not located within one thousand feet [604.80 meters] of a property line of a pre-existing public or private school.
- For a manufacturing facility applicant, a description of the enclosed, locked facility that would be used in the production and processing of marijuana, including steps that will be taken to ensure the production and processing is not visible from the street or other public areas.
- The name, address, and date of birth of each principal officer and board member, or of each member-manager, manager, or governor, of the proposed compassion center applicant.
- Verification each officer and board member, or each member-manager, manager, or governor, has consented to a criminal history record check conducted under section 12-60-24.
- For each of the proposed compassion center applicant's principal officers and board members, or for each of the proposed compassion center applicant's member-managers, managers, or governors, a description of that individual's relevant experience, including training or professional licensing related to medicine, pharmaceuticals, natural treatments, botany, food science, food safety, production, processing, and the individual's experience running a business entity.
- A description of proposed security and safety measures, which demonstrate compliance with the security and safety requirements under section 19-24.1-25.
- An example of the design and security features of usable marijuana containers which demonstrates compliance with section 19-24.1-21. j. A complete operations manual, which demonstrates compliance with section 19-24.1-27. K.
- A description of the plans for making usable marijuana available on an affordable basis to registered qualifying patients with limited financial resources.
- A list of all individuals and business entities having direct or indirect authority over the management or policies of the proposed compassion center applicant.
- A list of all individuals and business entities having an ownership interest in the proposed compassion center applicant, whether direct or indirect, and whether the interest is in profits, land, or building, including owners of any business entity that owns all or part of the land or building.
- The identity of any creditor holding a security interest in the proposed compassion center premises.
Application forms can be found here: www.nd.gov/eforms/.
Note: Although the state lists this as the link to application forms, we were unable to find them on the site. An inquiry has been made and this will be updated when we have the proper information.
North Dakota compassion centers application considerations
When reviewing a North Dakota compassion center application the department of health must consider the following:
- Location - The suitability of the proposed compassion center location, including compliance with any local zoning laws, and the geographic convenience to access compassion centers for registered qualifying patients and registered designated caregivers from throughout the state.
- Character - The character and relevant experience of the principal officers and board members, or of the member-managers, managers, or governors, including training or professional licensing and business experience.
- Operating plan - The applicant's plan for operations and services, including staffing and training plans, whether the applicant has sufficient capital to operate, and the applicant's ability to provide an adequate supply of usable marijuana to registered qualifying patients and registered designated caregivers.
- Recordkeeping - The sufficiency of the applicant's plans for recordkeeping.
- Security and safety plan - The sufficiency of the applicant's plans for safety, security, and the prevention of diversion, including proposed locations and security devices employed.
- Pricing - The applicant's plan for making usable marijuana available on an affordable basis to registered qualifying patients with limited financial resources.
- Packaging and labeling - The applicant's plan for safe and accurate packaging and labeling of usable marijuana.
- Lab testing - The applicant's plans for testing usable marijuana and marijuana.
If a compassion center application is approved, the applicant must submit all of the following additional items to the department to qualify for registration:
- A certification fee made payable to the "North Dakota State Department of Health, Medical Marijuana Program" in the amount of $90,000 for a dispensary and $110,00 for a manufacturing facility.
- A financial assurance or security bond to ensure the protection of the public health and safety and the environment in the event of abandonment, default, or other inability or unwillingness to meet the requirements of this chapter.
- Confirmation of the information in the application regarding the physical location of the proposed compassion center has not changed (if the information has changed the department will determine whether the new information meets the above requirements.)
- A current certificate of occupancy, or equivalent document, to demonstrate compliance with the provisions of state and local fire code for the physical address of the proposed compassion center.
Compassion Center license renewal
A North Dakota compassion center registration certificate expires two years after issuance. License holders may submit a renewal application between 90 and 60 days of expiration to avoid suspension. In order to be approved for renewal the following conditions must be satisfied:
- Has submitted a renewal fee in the amount of $90,000 for a dispensary and $110,000. If the application is rejected, the fee will be refunded.
- Has submitted a complete renewal application.
- License has not been suspended.
- Inspections conducted do not raise any serious concerns about the continued operation of the compassion center.
- The compassion center continues to meet all the requirements for the operation of a compassion center as set forth in this chapter and rules adopted under this chapter.
If a compassion center does not meet the requirements for renewal, the department will provide written notice of the determination.
Compassion center agent identification cards
Upon issuance of a compassion center license, the department will issue a registry identification card to each qualified compassion center agent associated with the compassion center. To qualify to be issued a registry identification card, each compassion center agent must be at least 21 years of age and must submit all of the following registry identification card application materials to the department:
- A photographic copy of the agent's department-approved identification
- A recent two-by-two inch photograph of the agent.
- A written and signed statement from an officer or executive staff member of the compassion center stating the applicant is associated with the compassion center and the capacity of the association.
- A nonrefundable application or renewal fee in the amount of two hundred dollars.
Expiration - The registry identification card of a compassion center agent expires one year after issuance or upon the termination of the compassion center's registration certificate, whichever occurs first. To prevent interruption of possession of a valid registry identification card, a compassion center agent shall renew a registry identification card by submitting a completed renewal application no less than forty-five calendar days before the expiration date of the existing registry identification card.
Revocation - The department may suspend or revoke a cardholder's registry identification card or a compassion center's registration certificate for a material misstatement by an applicant or failure to comply with regulations. A suspension may not be for a period longer than six months. A manufacturing facility may continue to produce and process and to possess marijuana and usable marijuana during a suspension, but may not transfer or sell usable marijuana. A dispensary may continue to possess usable marijuana during a suspension, but may not purchase, dispense, or transfer usable marijuana.
North Dakota cannabis regulations
Below we go into more detail related to the most commonly sought regulations.
A compassion center is subject to random inspection by the department. During an inspection, the department may review the compassion center's records, including the compassion center's financial and dispensing records, which may track transactions according to the registered qualifying patient and registered designated caregiver registry identification numbers. The department shall conduct inspections of compassion centers to ensure compliance with this chapter. The department shall conduct inspections of manufacturing facilities for the presence of contaminants. The department shall select a certified laboratory to conduct random quality sampling testing, in accordance with rules adopted under this chapter. A compassion center shall pay the cost of all random quality sampling testing.
A manufacturing facility shall test marijuana at a manufacturing facility for the presence of pesticides. If a marijuana pesticide test or a random quality sampling test under section 19-24.1-22 indicates the presence of a pesticide, the manufacturing facility shall report the test result immediately to the department and to the agriculture commissioner. Upon the order of the department or agriculture commissioner, the manufacturing facility immediately shall destroy all affected or contaminated marijuana and usable marijuana inventory in accordance with rules adopted under this chapter, and shall certify to the department and to the agriculture commissioner that all affected or contaminated inventory has been destroyed. 19-24.1-24.
A manufacturing facility shall grow an amount of marijuana sufficient to meet the qualifying patient population demands. For every five hundred plants in excess of one thousand plants a manufacturing facility possesses, the manufacturing facility shall pay the department an additional certification fee of ten thousand dollars. This fee is due at the time of increase and again at the renewal of the compassion center registration certificate under section 19-24.1-16. 2. A dispensary may not possess more than three thousand five hundred ounces [99.22 kilograms] of usable marijuana at any time, regardless of formulation. 3. The health council shall adopt rules to allow a manufacturing facility to possess no more than an additional fifty plants for the exclusive purpose of department-authorized research and development related to production and processing. These plants are not counted in a manufacturing facility possession amount and are not subject to an additional fee.
Security and safety
Compassion centers are required to implement appropriate security and safety measures to deter and prevent the unauthorized entrance to areas containing marijuana and containing usable marijuana and to prevent the theft of marijuana and usable marijuana. Only authorized personnel are allowed entry to an area in which production or producing takes place or in which marijuana or usable marijuana is held. Compassion centers must have a fully operational security alarm system at the authorized physical address which includes an electrical support backup system for the alarm system to provide suitable protection against theft and diversion. Furthermore, compassion centers are required to maintain documentation in an auditable form for all maintenance inspections and tests conducted under this section, and any servicing, modification, or upgrade performed on the security alarm system as well as alarm activations or other events that require a response by public safety personnel or any breach of security.
Compassion centers are required to employ a barcoding inventory control system to track batch, strain, and amounts of marijuana and usable marijuana in inventory and to track amounts of usable marijuana sold to dispensaries. A secure computer interface is required to transfer inventory amounts and dispensary purchase information to the department. Compassion centers must store all marijuana in an enclosed locked facility with adequate security. Furthermore, compassion centers must conduct inventories of marijuana. If an inventory results in the identification of a discrepancy, the compassion center must notify the department and appropriate law enforcement authorities immediately.
Retention of and access to records and reports
Compassion centers are required to keep detailed financial reports of proceeds and expenses, inventory, sales, and financial records in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles for a period of seven years. Compassion centers must allow the department, or an audit firm contracted by the department, access at all times to all books and records kept by the compassion center.
Compassion center inventory limits
Dispensaries are prohibited from possessing more than three thousand five hundred ounces of usable marijuana at any time, regardless of formulation.
Manufacturing facilities may not possess more than one thousand plants, regardless of the stage of growth. However, it may possess an additional fifty plants for the exclusive purpose of department-authorized research and development related to production and processing.
Plants for research and development must be included in the inventory and located in a restricted area separate from the restricted area containing plants used for producing and processing of usable marijuana and may not be sold to a dispensary for patient consumption.
Use of pesticides prohibited
The use of pesticides is prohibited in the production, processing, or storage of marijuana. Pesticides include:
- Insecticidal, fungicidal, or growth regulatory compounds.
Restricted access areas
Compassion center restricted access areas include all areas containing marijuana, usable marijuana, and medical marijuana waste as well as all areas used for production and processing. An electronically controlled access system is required to limit entrance to all restricted access areas of its facility. The electronic controlled access system must:
- Limit access to authorized individuals.
- Track specific personnel entry and exit times.
- Lock down the facility in the event of a security threat.
- Store data for retrieval.
- Remain operable in the event of power failure.
- Enable remote administration.
A compassion center must immediately submit stored controlled-access-system data to the department upon request.
Restricted access areas must be identified with a sign that states: "Do Not Enter - Restricted Access Area - Access Limited to Authorized Personnel Only."
Individuals authorized to enter restricted access areas include:
- Compassion center agents
- Laboratory agents
- Authorized department personnel
- Individuals accompanied by authorized department personnel
A compassion center shall maintain documentation of access to restricted areas. The documentation must include the date of entry, time of entry, time of exit, name of the individual, the reason for access, and any other information required by the department. The documentation must be retained for at least three years.
Law enforcement, fire personnel, or emergency medical service professionals may enter restricted access areas in the event of an emergency requiring immediate action.
Dispensary display areas
A dispensary may have a display area where usable marijuana is displayed in enclosed locked cases accessible only by compassion center agents. The purpose of the display area is to provide registered qualifying patients and registered designated caregivers the opportunity to view usable marijuana and receive education regarding its use.
Individuals authorized to enter dispensary display areas include:
- Registered qualifying patients
- Registered designated caregivers
- Compassion center agents
- Authorized department personnel
- Individuals accompanied by authorized department personnel.
Before allowing an individual to enter a dispensary display area, the dispensary must verify the validity of a cardholder's registry identification card.
All medical marijuana waste generated during production, processing, and testing must be evaluated against the state's hazardous waste regulations to determine if medical marijuana waste is designated as hazardous waste.
Medical marijuana waste not designated as hazardous waste must be rendered unusable in accordance with subsection 4 prior to disposal. Medical marijuana waste rendered unusable must be disposed of in accordance with subsection 5.
The required method for rendering medical marijuana waste unusable is by grinding the medical marijuana waste and incorporating it with other ground materials so the volume of the resulting mixture is less than fifty percent medical marijuana waste. All other methods for rendering medical marijuana waste unusable must be approved by the department before implementation.
There are two categories of ground material that can be incorporated with medical marijuana waste: compostable mix waste and noncompostable mix waste.
Compostable mixed waste includes medical marijuana waste to be disposed of as compost feedstock or in another organic waste method, such as an anaerobic digester, may be mixed with:
- Food waste.
- Yard waste.
- Vegetable-based grease or oils.
- Other wastes as approved by the department.
Noncompostable mixed waste: medical marijuana waste to be disposed of in a landfill or another disposal method, such as incineration, may be mixed with these materials:
- Paper waste.
- Cardboard waste.
- Plastic waste.
- Other wastes as approved by the department.
Medical marijuana waste rendered unusable in accordance with subsection 4 can be disposed.
Disposal of the medical marijuana waste rendered unusable may be delivered to a permitted and state-approved solid waste facility for final disposition. Acceptable and department-approved permitted solid waste facilities include:
- Compostable mixed waste: compost, anaerobic digester, or another facility with the approval of the jurisdictional state or local health department.
- Noncompostable mixed waste: landfill, incinerator, or another facility with the approval of the jurisdictional state or local health department.
Disposal of the medical marijuana waste rendered unusable may be managed onsite by the generator in accordance with the standards of North Dakota Century Code chapter 23-29.
Compassion centers and laboratories must maintain a record of the final destination of medical marijuana waste rendered unusable. The record must be maintained for a period of seven years.
License holders may utilize third party seed-to-sale tracking systems. However, the department maintains an online system for inventory control and registry identification card verification. Any compassion center inventory control system must interface with the tracking system maintained by the department. If the compassion center's inventory control system does not adequately interface with the state’s tracking system, the department may require the compassion center to use the system maintained by the department.
All costs associated with interfacing are the responsibility of the compassion center.
Personnel record retention
Personnel records maintained by the compassion center must include all recruiting and screening documents, as well as other employee-related documentation. The list of required records includes the following:
- Job descriptions
- Job offers
- Promotion and demotions
- Education and training
- Policy acknowledgments
- Letters of recognition
- Warnings, counseling, and disciplinary notices
- Performance evaluation and goal setting records
- Termination records
- References and background checks
Advertising and marketing
Compassion centers may display a business name and logo on labels, signs, websites, and informational material provided to registered qualifying patients and registered designated caregivers. The name or logo may not include:
- Images of marijuana or marijuana paraphernalia.
- Colloquial references to marijuana.
- Names of marijuana plant strains.
- Medical symbols that bear a reasonable resemblance to established medical associations, including the American medical association or American academy of pediatrics.
Websites may contain:
- The facility name
- Contact information
- Hours of operation
- The usable marijuana offered
- Product pricing
- Other information as approved by the department
All marketing or advertising activities not covered under subsections 1 and 2, are subject to department approval. The compassion center must request approval from the department, and the department will approve or deny the request within thirty calendar days.
Additional regulatory considerations
Below you’ll find various additional North Dakota cannabis regulation topics and the section of the legal code where the information can be found.
- 33-44-01-16. Recall procedures
- 33-44-01-17. Surveillance requirements
- 33-44-01-18. Alarm system requirements
- 33-44-01-20. Conducting inventory
- 33-44-01-22. Compassion center incidents
- 33-44-01-24. Strain or brand names
- 33-44-01-25. Usable marijuana packaging
- 33-44-01-26. Manufacturing facility labeling
- 33-44-01-27. Dispensary labeling
- 33-44-01-29. Transportation authorization
- 33-44-01-30. Transportation requirements
- 33-44-01-31. Compassion center inspections and compliance
- 33-44-01-33. Data reporting
- 33-44-01-35. Reporting adverse reactions
- 33-44-01-36. Laboratory procurement process
- 33-44-01-37. Laboratory authority
- 33-44-01-38. Laboratory agent registry identification cards
- 33-44-01-39. Laboratory inspection
- 33-44-01-40. Usable marijuana testing
- 33-44-01-41. Ordering tests
- 33-44-01-42. Compliance testing requirements for dried leaves and flowers
- 33-44-01-43. Compliance testing requirements for cannabinoid concentrates
- 33-44-01-44. Compliance testing requirements for medical cannabinoid products
- 33-44-01-45. Batch requirements for compliance testing
- 33-44-01-46. Manufacturing facility requirements for labeling, storing, and securing usable
- 33-44-01-47. Standards for pesticides and degradation compounds compliance testing
- 33-44-01-48. Standards for microbiological contaminants and mycotoxin compliance testing
- 33-44-01-49. Standards for solvents compliance testing
- 33-44-01-50. Standards for water activity and moisture content compliance testing
- 33-44-01-51. Standards for concentration compliance testing
- 33-44-01-52. Failed test samples
- 33-44-01-53. Tentative identification of compounds
- 33-44-01-54. Random testing
- 33-44-01-55. Manufacturing facility quality control and quality assurance program.
State Laws and Administrative Rules
A notice of proposed changes to administrative rules has been filed with Legislative Council. To view the full notice including location, date, and time of a public hearing reference the documents below.
Links and resources
- North Dakota cannabis license application forms
Note: Although the state lists this as the link to application forms, we were unable to find them on the site.
- Dispensary Locations
- Presentations and Annual Reports
- Status Updates and Press Releases
- State Laws and Administrative Rules
- User Guide and Forms
- Security Policy
- Status Updates
- Press Releases
- DOH Medical Marijuana Presentation - 4.26.2019
Division of Medical Marijuana
600 East Boulevard Ave., Dept. 301
Bismarck, ND 58505-0200
Office Phone 701.328.1311