BISMARCK - As lawmakers debate a bill containing rules to govern the state's voter-approved medical marijuana program, the North Dakota Department of Health has named someone to lead it.

Kenan Bullinger was named director of the state's medical marijuana program on Friday, effective immediately.

Bullinger has been with the health department for 33 years, serving as director of its Food and Lodging Division for the past 25 years.

"Kenan's background in licensing, regulation and lab management all make him an ideal person for the job. He has also been in discussions and provided valuable input regarding the measure, and now law, since the beginning," Arvy Smith, interim co-director of the health department, said in a Friday release.

Nearly 64 percent of voters approved Measure 5 in November, legalizing medical marijuana in North Dakota.

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In response, the 81-page Senate Bill 2344 has been introduced to amend that law.

The first hearing on SB2344 is scheduled for 9:45 a.m. Wednesday in the Brynhild Haugland Room. Lawmakers and state officials say the changes are needed to run a viable program. Measure 5 proponents plan to lodge their complaints, claiming the bill overrides the intent of the law as passed.

"We have a tremendous amount of work to do working hand in hand with the Legislature and governor's office to get some needed changes made to the Compassionate Care Act that will result in having safe medical cannabis in the hands of qualifying patients in an affordable, efficient and fiscally responsible manner," Bullinger said in the release.

An estimate the health department released to Legislative Management last fall put the cost of implementation for the 2017-19 biennium at about $7.35 million, with up to 32 full-time staff needed. Department also estimated the impact on the Bureau of Criminal Investigation at nearly $2.8 million per biennium, with a need for 15 additional full-time staff.

The new division will oversee the issuance of medical marijuana cards, licensing and regulation of manufacturing and dispensary facilities, and regulation of medical marijuana products.

Information on medical marijuana in North Dakota can be found at