The 34-year-old Hazen woman drove to Bismarck with her sister-in-law for the long-awaited opening of the dispensary at 1207 Memorial Highway — the first dispensary to open in central North Dakota and one of only four operating in the state nearly three years after voters approved the drug.
About 15 people showed up at the Bismarck dispensary during the first hour it was open. Olander likened the opening to Black Friday shopping, “and you want to be the first one in.”
Olander has spinal stenosis and other chronic back problems, as well as arthritis. She’s had back issues for 16 years and started taking prescription pain pills about three years ago.
After taking the pills she would become forgetful. She also became addicted to the pills, which she admitted to her doctor.
“I needed to get off them, and I knew that,” she said, adding that she takes 27 pills a day and her goal is to stop taking them completely.
She looked to medical marijuana as a safer alternative to the pills.
“It really does help. It’s really a medicine; it’s not just Cheech and Chong,” she said, referring to the comedic duo whose act and movies center around the recreational marijuana culture.
Olander and other patients exited the dispensary with white paper prescription bags containing marijuana products. Olander opted to buy marijuana concentrate, which is used along with a vape pen. She said she gets back spasms that will last for 48 hours, so the concentrate works fast and is effective.
“It’s a big relief off our shoulders that we don’t have to hide. You don’t have to worry, ‘Oh my god, do I smell like marijuana?’ Now that I have my card I feel a big relief,” she said.
Patients must have a card issued by the state Health Department to buy medical marijuana.
The dispensary has a waiting room that is open to the public, according to General Manager Ben Hecht. The area is open to people seeking more information about medical marijuana and the state program.
The waiting room has a glass window where a staff member will take a patient’s…