Disabled Veteran Says Medical Marijuana Prices Are Too High, State & Company Leaders Respond
The Botanist In Fargo is operated by Acreage Holdings based out of New York
FARGO, ND — It took years for North Dakota to establish its medical marijuana program which was approved by voters in 2016.
Now that it’s up and running, with one dispensary open in Fargo, some people are saying the cost is just too high for those who really need the drug.
Tom Schmidtgal is on a mission he says to educate people about the high price of interrupting pain.
It’s coming at a steep cost to those new to medical marijuana in North Dakota.
“If you’re HIV or one of those that are really detrimental these people need that stuff,” said Tom. “It’ll let them eat! I’m sorry it just drives me nuts the way these people are ripping us off.”
The people Tom are referring to are the ones behind The Botanist. It is North Dakota’s first medical marijuana dispensary and it’s located in Fargo.
Since March 1, it has provided dried leaves and flowers and concentrates to a small group of people holding a North Dakota medical marijuana card.
It is operated by Acreage Holdings based out of New York.
Schmidtgal said, “Here’s The Botanist in Fargo. We’ll click on that.”
He uses an app called Leafly which bills itself as the world’s cannabis information resource.
He says it lists a popular strain of medical marijuana in Fargo at well over $400 an ounce.
Compare that to Colorado, where both medical and recreational marijuana are legal, at around 99 bucks an ounce.
“I think they need to take $100 off the price, period,” said Schmidtgal.
Jason Wahl: “The Division of Medical Marijuana doesn’t have any regulatory authority in regards to setting the prices of the products under the program,” said Jason Wahl.
He runs the medical marijuana division of the North Dakota Health Department.
He makes another comparison.
Ohio which just started its medical marijuana program last January is selling dried leaves and flowers at just under $500 an ounce.
Acreage Holdings does operate in Ohio but not in Minnesota where oils and pills are legal while dried leaves and flowers are not.
“When we compared similar products to the state of Minnesota, there are products that would be available in Fargo that are less than some comparable product in Minnesota,” said Wahl.
The leadership team at Acreage Holdings is pretty impressive. The board includes a former Republican Speaker of the House, John Boehner, a Conservative former prime minister of Canada, Brian Mulroney and former Governor of Massachusetts, William Weld.
They have the juice to get things done and could get the federal government to fall in line with eventual support for medical marijuana.
The acting GM of The Botanist says veterans are a major focus of the company.
He says they have major needs for the cannabis plant and have been outspoken about access…..
He also says they do provide a veteran discount.
Pat Doherty, acting GM of The Botanist said, “We are going to work to make sure it’s affordable for him because we know veterans are looking for access to cannabis and we understand the need to get pricing down and we’re going to work to make that happen.”
The Botanist, by law, only has one manufacturer which was limited to just 1,000 plants.
The North Dakota Legislature in the session that just concluded changed that language to “grow an amount of marijuana sufficient to meet the qualifying patient population demands”.
They also changed laws to make it easier to purchase additional products, they added 12 additional medical conditions including cancer and they are making it easier to obtain a medical card, including for veterans, like Tom.
“In lieu of a written certification a veteran receiving treatment from the federal VA is now eligible to submit a copy of their medical records to us,” said Wahl.
Tom served in Vietnam and was injured by an explosion.
He is very passionate about the topic and with good reason.
“Yeah, life stopped, said Tom. “Your whole world is upside down. Period! For the rest of your life. Killing people is not easy.”
It is people like Tom and others living day in and day out with excruciating pain who need medical marijuana the most.
“Now they made it easier for the underground people, they’re going to drop their prices now, the underground people, because they know people are not going to pay near $400 for something they can get for $250,” said Tom.
It is hoped that with better laws and more people allowed into the program that the prices will start to come down.
“The biggest thing we focus on at The Botanist is making and doing our best to make pricing affordable for those who could use cannabis to improve their lives,” said Doherty.
Of course it all takes time.
North Dakota’s medical marijuana program started just two months ago with 120 medical cards being issued.
Wahl says the numbers keep growing every day and there are now 380 patients with cards.
Three more dispensaries will open in the next three months but none will be operated by Acreage Holdings.
Find a complete list of medical marijuana law changes in North Dakota here.