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Published July 16 2011

Pharmacy petition language approved

BISMARCK – Opponents of North Dakota’s pharmacy ownership law can once again circulate a petition to change it.

Secretary of State Al Jaeger signed off Friday on the proposed petition, which sponsors submitted for review on July 6.

Sponsors have one year to gather the 13,452 signatures required to get the measure placed on the November 2012 ballot as they’re aiming for.

Current North Dakota law requires pharmacies to be owned by licensed pharmacists – preventing retailers, such as Walmart or Walgreens, from operating pharmacies at their stores in the state.

A similar petition drive failed last fall, when organizers neglected to include a list of the measure’s sponsors when they circulated petitions.

The North Dakota Supreme Court ruled the petitions were invalid.

Political activist Duane Sand, who’s organizing the petition drive, said the secretary of state’s office was helpful in ensuring the petition was drafted correctly this time.

“I’m very pleased with all the counseling that they provided,” he said. “They provide a good taxpayer service.”

Sand said sponsors of the petition plan to begin collecting signatures by Monday at the latest, and he’s “extremely confident” they’ll gather the minimum number of supporters necessary.

Sand and his fellow sponsors, including Bismarck physician Dr. Eric Thompson, face resistance from a major policy player in the state.

The North Dakota Pharmacists Association opposes the movement and wants to keep the longstanding pharmacy ownership law as it is.

“The North Dakota pharmacy ownership (law) is a complex issue that has provided many benefits to the state and its citizens over the years,” said Mike Schwab, the association’s executive vice president. “We look forward to providing advocacy and education showing how the current law benefits the state and its citizens.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541