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North Dakota’s First Medical Cannabis Dispensary Is Open for Business

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota’s first medical marijuana dispensary opens for business Friday in a Fargo mini-mall, two years after voters took matters into their own hands to legalize the drug for treatment.

Patients who visit The Botanist will find themselves walking into a room that has the feel of a spa or salon, with wood floors, two large display cases illuminated by hanging lights and shelves with flower pots and artificial seeds hanging out the sides of empty jugs. The back of the space features a so-called “living wall” of leaves, plants and moss behind the check-out area.

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“We feel it is a very unique experience. It’s a blending of nature and science,” said Pat Doherty, director of new market development for New York City-based Acreage Holdings, which has operating licenses in 19 states, dispensaries in Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and Ohio, and promotes itself as the largest cannabis operator in the nation.

The Botanist initially will have dried leaves and flowers and two types of concentrates.

Patients in North Dakota eventually will be able to buy products in six forms, including dried leaves and flowers, concentrates, tinctures, capsules, topicals and transdermal patches. The Botanist initially will have dried leaves and flowers and two types of concentrates, produced by a state-approved manufacturing facility in Bismarck, and will add more forms later, according to Jason Wahl, director of the state’s Medical Marijuana Division.

State law limits the amount of THC, the chemical that produces a high, in the capsule, patch and topical forms, and it requires patients to get special authorization from a health care provider for dried leaves and flowers with a THC concentration greater than 6 percent. That form is not available to minors.

Doherty said patients who are making their first visits should talk with a staff member about their medical condition and what products might be best for them. A consultation room is located off the showroom floor.

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North Dakota voters approved medical marijuana in November 2016, a year after a legalization effort failed in the Legislature and prompted the initiated measure by advocates.

Fargo is the first of eight planned dispensaries to open around the state.

The state Health Department has been setting up a system since the 2017 Legislature crafted rules that allow the use of medical marijuana for 17 qualifying health conditions, along with terminal illnesses. State lawmakers this year are considering expanding the list of legal conditions to 30, and adding edibles as a seventh form of the drug.

The state began accepting applications in October from residents for medical marijuana cards and 122 people had been certified as of this week. The state expects that number to climb to as many as 4,000 in coming years.

Since Fargo is the first of eight planned dispensaries to open around the state, Doherty expects visitors from near and far.

“I think those certified patients across the state have been excited and looking forward to this day,” he said.

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The Health Department hopes to have dispensaries operating in the state’s eight major cities by fall. It has named operators for facilities in Fargo, Grand Forks, Bismarck and Williston. The application period for dispensaries in Devils Lake, Dickinson, Jamestown and Minot closed Tuesday.

A second dispensary could open as early as April, possibly in Grand Forks or Williston, Wahl said.

Whether the Fargo dispensary can handle the demand in the meantime will depend on how many people are approved for state medical marijuana cards in the coming weeks, and how far they’re willing to travel, he said.

“We are certainly hopeful the one dispensary is able to meet patient demand, and the one manufacturing facility is on track to be able to supply a sufficient amount of product to that dispensary,” Wahl said.

A second manufacturing facility, in Fargo, has begun growing medical marijuana but is probably a month or two away from having product available, according to Wahl.

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