Each marijuana plant has a tracking tag in a cultivation room at Sea of Green Farms, a recreational cannabis grower in Seattle on June 25, 2014. The bar-coded tags are used for seed-to-sale tracking in Washington state. (Ted S. Warren, Associated Press file)

North Dakota chooses tracking system for medical marijuana program

BISMARCK, N.D. — North Dakota’s Health Department has selected a Florida-based company to implement a system to monitor the state’s developing medical marijuana program.

BioTrackTHC has similar contracts in six other states including Delaware, which has a medical marijuana program similar to what North Dakota plans. The Fort Lauderdale company was chosen from among six proposals.

“Certainly the experience and qualifications of the firm were taken into consideration,” North Dakota Medical Marijuana Division Director Jason Wahl said Thursday.

The management system will track the production, transportation and sale of medical marijuana, as well as help register dispensaries and patient card holders.

“The data included in the tracking system will provide a digital record of the state’s entire marijuana inventory,” Wahl said.

BioTrackTHC submitted a five-year, $600,000 proposal, though the contract’s final financial terms will be decided through negotiations that could wrap up by the end of the month, according to Wahl.

“We will be attempting to negotiate a contract to get the dollar amount to a range that will be able to fit within our budget,” he said.

The medical marijuana program is funded by taxes and program fees and has a $1.6 million budget for the state’s current two-year budget period.

State voters approved medical marijuana in November 2016. The Health Department has been working to create the program since Gov. Doug Burgum in April 2017 approved regulations crafted by lawmakers. State law allows medical marijuana for 17 medical conditions and terminal illnesses. The drug is expected to be available to patients late this year.

The Health Department expects to begin accepting applications from manufacturing facilities in late spring or early summer, before moving on to application periods for dispensaries, patients and caregivers. The agency also will choose a lab to test the marijuana.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in January rescinded an Obama administration policy pledging that federal authorities wouldn’t crack down on marijuana operations in states where they were legal, as long as the states maintained tight regulations.

The impact of the decision isn’t known, but North Dakota’s Health Department is forging ahead with creating the medical marijuana program set into law by the Legislature last year.

Eighteen senators including North Dakota Democrat Heidi Heitkamp sent a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee Feb. 13 urging members to respect marijuana policies enacted by states when finalizing fiscal year 2018 spending.

“The (Justice Department) decision to rescind years of legal guidance on marijuana could be very disruptive to states like North Dakota,” Heitkamp said.