BISMARCK, N.D. — North Dakota health officials are gauging interest among laboratories in the state in testing medical marijuana once a system is established for making it legally available to patients.

The state Health Department is seeking non-binding letters of intent from laboratories by the close of business on Aug. 25.

North Dakota voters in November approved medical marijuana, and the Legislature this year crafted regulations that Gov. Doug Burgum approved in April. The North Dakota Compassionate Care Act allows the use of medical marijuana for 17 medical conditions, along with terminal illnesses.

Producers of the drug will be required by law to have it laboratory tested for contaminants including pesticides and molds and to ensure that levels of the intoxicant THC are accurately labeled. The medical marijuana centers will have to pay the testing costs.

The Health Department will register two “compassion centers” to make the drug and eight more to dispense it. The agency earlier this summer sought letters of intent from groups and businesses interested in producing or dispensing medical marijuana, and received nearly 100 responses.

Health officials hope medical marijuana can be available to patients by late spring or early summer next year.

Labs must be located in North Dakota to be eligible to do the testing, because medical marijuana can’t legally be moved across state lines. Labs also will need to be authorized by an accreditation agency.

“We issued the letter of intent (request) to spur some interest and meet a critical need to keep the medical marijuana program in North Dakota heading in the right direction,” said Kenan Bullinger, director of the Health Department’s medical marijuana division.

The division is still seeking clarification on how many labs can be a part of the system.


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BLAKE NICHOLSON
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