The State of Medical Marijuana in Minnesota

2020 Grade: C-

2015 2016 2017 2018-2019 2020
C C- C- C C-

2019-2020 Improvements and Recommendations

2019 saw the Land of 10,000 Lakes make several much-needed improvements to one of the most restrictive medical cannabis programs in the nation. Reacting to patient feedback painting the state program as unaffordable and inaccessible32, the state expanded the number of legal medical retail facilities from 8 to 16. The Minnesota Department of Health also added chronic pain and macular degeneration to the list of conditions eligible for medical cannabis treatment. Despite these positive changes, Minnesota still has much to do to sufficiently meet patient needs.

Under the state’s COVID emergency plans, Minnesota authorized medical cannabis businesses to continue operating, extended patient access through curbside pickup and home delivery, permitted telemedicine for physician evaluations, and extended existing enrollments. ASA recommends permanently extending these features to facilitate greater patient access, ease of access, and reduce cost and physical burdens on patients.

ASA encourages state lawmakers to authorize medical use of cannabis flower for patients, as flower is often the most affordable form of medical cannabis. Whole-plant cannabis also provides patients with a delivery method for cannabis’ complex system of cannabinoids and terpenes, which can provide a more comprehensive treatment than isolating a single plant compound for a manufactured product.33 ASA also encourages Minnesota to authorize patients to cultivate cannabis at home, which will help drive down the cost of obtaining medicine, improve access and reduce travel burdens.

Background

In 2014, Minnesota Governor Dayton signed the Minnesota Medical Marijuana Act (SF 2470) into law, which provides legal protections for patients with certain debilitating medical conditions who obtain a physician’s recommendation for the use of medical cannabis products. The law authorizes a regulatory program to oversee the distribution and manufacturing of permitted cannabis products, which may use liquid, pill or vaporized delivery methods, however the smoking of cannabis is prohibited. SF 2470 imposes no concentration limits on THC or CBD for these products, which offers maximum flexibility in designing medical cannabis treatments that can be tailored to treat a wide range of patient health conditions. Patient protections are strong in the 2014 law, though it does permit state collection of patient medical data for those patients who are recommended medical cannabis. With respect to patient access, the Minnesota Medical Marijuana Act allowed for eight dispensaries to be operated by private companies. Two companies are currently licensed to operate cultivation, manufacturing, distribution and retail facilities under the law.

In 2016, the state added intractable pain and PTSD to the list of qualifying conditions eligible for patient enrollment in the state system via HF 3142. This legislation also improved transportation laws for testing and disposal, and allowed pharmacists to video-conference with patients. In 2018, the Department of Health added sleep apnea, autism and Alzheimer’s to the list of qualifying conditions. The Minnesota Department of Corrections also moved to allow people on supervised release to use medical cannabis.

Patient Feedback

Surveyed patients report concern over the high cost of medical cannabis products and inadequate number of dispensaries in their state. Some surveyed patients would like to extend or permanently maintain provisions allowing caregivers to serve an unlimited number of patients, especially for curbside pick-up.