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How to Open a Dispensary in North Dakota

Overview

Are you wondering how to open a dispensary in North Dakota? This page will keep you up-to-date on the latest news and information relevant to opening a cannabis business in North Dakota. This includes helpful insights into what is to come.

As of 2024, North Dakota allows the use of medical marijuana for patients who qualify under specific rules. However, recreational marijuana use remains illegal in the state. 

On November 8th, 2022, North Dakota Statutory Measure 2 was proposed for the ballot but was ultimately defeated. If passed, the measure would have legalized the personal use of marijuana for adults aged 21 and older. Additionally, the Department of Health and Human Services would have been tasked with establishing regulations for adult-use marijuana by October 1, 2023. However, the measure did not receive enough support, with 54.94% of voters casting “no” votes.

On April 16th, 2024, North Dakota launched a renewed campaign to legalize recreational cannabis, submitting the initial paperwork to the secretary of state. The initiative advocates a “consumer-friendly yet highly regulated” framework, capping the number of marijuana retail stores at 18 and manufacturing facilities at 7, with strict ownership guidelines. Despite voter rejections in previous years, supporters are hopeful. The legislation stipulates that, if passed, sales would begin by October 1, 2025.

Building on this momentum, the New Economic Frontier advocacy group received approval on April 25th, 2024, to start collecting signatures for a 2024 ballot initiative. This latest push follows unsuccessful attempts in 2018 and 2022. The initiative aims to redirect law enforcement resources from marijuana enforcement to more pressing issues, such as the opioid crisis, and to establish a regulatory framework that ensures safer, regulated cannabis products for consumers. To qualify for the November 2024 general election ballot, advocates need to collect 15,582 valid signatures by July 8, 2024.

Cannabis legalization efforts in North Dakota

2016: The North Dakota Compassionate Care Act, also known as Measure 5, was passed by the voters.

2017:  Senate Bill 2344, which would make changes to the medical cannabis law that voters approved, is passed by the state legislature.

2018: Measure 3, an adult-use legalization measure, qualifies for the ballot; voters reject it.

2019: Gov. Doug Burgum signed HB 1050 to remove jail sentences for adults having up to half an ounce of cannabis. HB 1519 increased the list of debilitating medical disorders.

2021: The House of Representatives of North Dakota votes in favor of House Bill 1420, but the bill ultimately fails to win approval in the Senate of North Dakota.

2022: The New Approach North Dakota collects 25,000 signatures to legalize adult-use marijuana.

2023: On March 16th, 2023, Senate Bill 2068 was signed into law. The bill increased the allowable purchase limit of THC from 4,000 milligrams to 6,000 milligrams in 30 days for cannabinoid concentrates and medical cannabinoid products. 

2024: The New Economic Frontier leads a new initiative aiming to legalize adult-use cannabis. The proposal, targeting the November 2024 ballot, permits adults over 21 to possess and purchase cannabis from registered businesses.

How many marijuana dispensaries are in North Dakota?

The North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH) is required by state law to register no more than eight dispensaries unless it determines that additional entities are required to increase access to usable marijuana for registered qualifying patients and registered designated caregivers. In this case, the NDDoH may register additional entities.

In February 2019, the first dispensary in the state of North Dakota opened its doors in Fargo. A number of new dispensaries opened their doors in 2019, with the eighth and last dispensary setting up shop in Dickinson in December 2019.

The state of North Dakota is home to a total of eight dispensaries. Check out this page for a list of available dispensaries.

The Opportunity Size

According to one projection, the value of marijuana sales in North Dakota in the year 2025 is expected to be close to 25.3 million USD.

Local Cannabis Restrictions and Laws

In North Dakota, medical marijuana dispensaries are regulated under strict guidelines to ensure safe and responsible access to cannabis for medical use. The state limits the number of dispensaries to eight, strategically distributed across designated regions to ensure accessibility for registered patients and caregivers. Each dispensary must register with the state’s health department and is permitted to acquire and dispense marijuana, along with related supplies and educational materials.

Dispensaries are subject to strict location restrictions, requiring them to be situated at least 1,000 feet away from pre-existing schools and to comply with local zoning laws, with necessary approvals from local officials to confirm compliance. They must also implement strong security measures to prevent unauthorized access and secure their inventory, including advanced security systems and controlled access to storage areas. Comprehensive record-keeping is required for all transactions and inventory to ensure transparency and compliance.

The state conducts random inspections to ensure that dispensaries comply with all regulations, including financial, dispensing, and inventory standards. Marijuana packaging must also meet specific state guidelines to ensure it is safe, secure, and non-appealing to children, with a verification system in place to ensure that marijuana is only dispensed to individuals holding valid identification cards. Dispensaries must also adhere to legal limits on the quantity of marijuana dispensed to prevent excessive possession.

Medical Marijuana

In 2016, voters in North Dakota gave Measure 5 their approval, which authorized the use of cannabis for medical purposes in the state. In 2017, both chambers of the state legislature approved amendments to Measure 5, one of which was the elimination of a clause that had permitted medical marijuana patients to cultivate their plants. It also became mandatory in some circumstances for a qualified medical practitioner to suggest smoking marijuana as a means of consumption. The requisite two-thirds majority vote was achieved in both chambers of the North Dakota State Legislature for the bill to be passed.

To be eligible for a medical marijuana card, patients need to be at least nineteen (19) years old when they submit their application. Patients must also have a certified diagnosis of one of the debilitating medical conditions to be eligible for the program. Some examples of these conditions include cancer, HIV/AIDS, decompensated cirrhosis from hepatitis, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

As of April 2024, North Dakota has 9,932 active medical marijuana cardholders. 

Medical Marijuana Program Opportunities

Medical dispensaries in the state of North Dakota are allowed to purchase medical cannabis products from only licensed manufacturing facilities. They are also allowed to store, deliver, transfer, and transport medical marijuana, but only for the purpose of dispensing the product to qualified patients or caregivers who have registered with the state. Patients and their caregivers are allowed to get educational materials and other goods related to medical marijuana from dispensaries.

At this time, no new license applications for medicinal marijuana dispensaries are being accepted. When the application is finally available, we will update this section.

How much does it cost to open a dispensary in North Dakota?

The cost to open a dispensary in North Dakota includes a non-refundable application fee of $5,000 as well as a licensing fee of $90,000.

Recreational Use Legalization

The state’s secretary of state has given the green light to a new campaign led by the group New Economic Frontier. This approval enables the group to initiate a signature collection effort, needing 15,582 valid signatures by July 8, 2024, to place their initiative on the November ballot. The proposed legislation permits individuals 21 years of age and older to consume cannabis privately and grow up to three plants per adult, with a household maximum of six plants, while maintaining a ban on public consumption. This effort builds on past initiatives, particularly the 2022 campaign led by New Approach North Dakota. Known as Measure 2, this earlier proposal aimed to legalize the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis and four grams of concentrate per adult. It also sought to establish a fully licensed cannabis industry, encompassing cultivation, processing, retail, and testing laboratories. Despite garnering substantial support and advocacy from various organizations and local publications, Measure 2 was defeated, with 55% of voters opposing the initiative.

The detailed regulations of Measure 2 included strict guidelines for transporting, storing, advertising, packaging, labeling, and testing marijuana products. It also proposed that the Department of Health and Human Services, or another designated agency, manage a licensed program, emphasizing public consumption prohibitions and the preservation of employer rights in workplace drug policies.

Despite these setbacks, the persistence of groups like New Economic Frontier underscores the ongoing debate and public interest in cannabis policy within the state. As North Dakota’s medical cannabis market is projected to potentially reach a value of $25 million this year, the economic implications of legalization continue to fuel discussions and legislative efforts toward a regulated cannabis industry.

We anticipate many new events unfolding through 2024 that will affect when and what recreational legalization will look like. By adding yourself to our North Dakota Cannabis Mailing List (below), we will keep you updated on all relevant news and even the more difficult-to-find news and comments related to North Dakota legalization below. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • What are the requirements to get a marijuana business license and open marijuana dispensaries in North Dakota?
  • What special programs will be available?
  • And more…

Just fill out the information below to get access.

 

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