Petitions To Repeal North Dakota's Pharmacy Law To Be Circulated Again

I missed this in the lead up to the holiday weekend, but last week the Bismarck Tribune reported that another petition to repeal North Dakota’s bizarre pharmacy protection law has been filed with the Secretary of State’s office which is set to approve it for circulation.

For the uninitiated, North Dakota law (specifically 43-15-35 of the Century Code) states that a pharmacy may only be licensed if:

“The applicant for such permit is qualified to conduct the pharmacy, and is a licensed pharmacist in good standing or is a partnership, each active member of which is a licensed pharmacist in good standing; a corporation or an association, the majority stock in which is owned by licensed pharmacists in good standing; or a limited liability company, the majority membership interests in which is owned by licensed pharmacists in good standing, actively and regularly employed in and responsible for the management, supervision, and operation of such pharmacy.”

In plain English, this means that pharmacies in North Dakota must be owned by pharmacists. Which means that companies like Target and Walmart, which obviously aren’t owned by pharmacists, can’t operate in the state.

Complicating the matter is the fact that permits held before July 1st 1963 are exempted from this requirement, which is why North Dakota does have some chain pharmacies like CVS. They have or bought out permits that were grandfathered in with the exemption.

Pharmacies already operating in North Dakota like the status quo. It protects them from having to compete with companies like Target and Walmart. For pharmacy customers, whoever, who might find the prices/services offered by those sort of competitors appealing, the law isn’t so good.

So far, North Dakota’s pharmacists have been winning this fight.

Bills introduced during the 2009 and 2011 Legislative sessions aimed at repealing these provisions failed after a fierce lobbying effort against them by the state’s pharmacists. An initiated measure effort launched to put the issue on the 2010 ballot failed after the group circulating the petitions made a technical error (the signature pages weren’t circulated with the ballot language attached) that disqualified the signatures. A second petition effort to put the issue on the 2012 ballot fizzled when organizer Duane Sand abandoned the effort to launch his fourth campaign for federal office (he was defeated for the Republican nomination for Senate by Rick Berg on the 2012 primary ballot).

Now it appears as though there will be a push to get a measure on the November of 2014 ballot, though there isn’t a lot of time now to get the requisite 13,452 signatures in by August 6th. But even if the petitioners miss the November ballot, they can still collect signatures and hit a subsequent ballot.

The November ballot is already pretty crowded. I wrote an in-depth article about it over at Watchdog.org a few weeks ago, but already the November ballot has 4 measures confirmed with three more currently being circulated. If the pharmacy petition is aimed at the November ballot, it would be the fourth being circulated.

It’s not clear who is behind the effort. I’m told that Walmart may be involved again (they backed the 2010 petition effort), and if so that would certainly be a boon to signature collection efforts.

I emailed Devils Lake attorney Dan Traynor, who has been involved in previous efforts, and he said he’s not authorized to speak to the media about the petition but that he’ll put me in touch with the campaign.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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