Minnesota is teed up to become the twenty-second state to legalize marijuana for medical use by adults. But, the state is not creating an Amsterdam on Lake Superior—its medical marijuana law is one of the more stringent in the country.
Among the activists who advocated for the passage of the Minnesota medical marijuana law were the parents of seriously ill children, some of whom suffer the ravages of MS, and others who cope with harsh side-effects from chemotherapy. These parents argued that, without the legislation, they would have been forced to move their families out of the state and into states where medical use of the drug is legal. After the testimony of these advocates and after several compromise terms were proposed, opponents of medical marijuana, including law enforcement officials, have taken a neutral position on the new legislation.
Minnesota’s medical marijuana law, which is scheduled to take effect on July 1, 2015, is the result of a compromise between proponents of medical marijuana in the state legislature and those who opposed it. As a result, the law imposes narrow restrictions upon what constitutes legal medical marijuana, where it may be obtained, and who may legally use it.
The Minnesota law will decriminalize only liquid and pill extracts of marijuana plants, not leaves. The only form of the drug that may be smoked is vaporized plant extract. This means that even certified medical pot users cannot legally light up a joint in Minnesota.
One of the major compromises of the law was a strict limitation on the number of manufacturers and distributors of the drug. Under the law, only two medical marijuana manufacture operations in the entire state will be established. And, just eight dispensaries will be set up in Minnesota to distribute the drug.
The law mandates a state registry of patients who have shown themselves to be qualified for medical marijuana. Under Minnesota’s medical marijuana law, only the following conditions may be legally treated with the drug:
To qualify to legally use medical marijuana, patients will have to get a certification from a doctor, physician’s assistant, or advanced practice nurse. Once a patient gets certified, he or she then must apply to the Minnesota Department of Health for enrollment in the patient registry and pay a $200 annual fee. Once accepted for enrollment, the patient will then be tracked for an observational study.
Minnesota’s law will also require an observational study of the effects on the certified patients of having the conditions listed treated with medical marijuana. Upon acceptance into the medical marijuana patient registry, a patient agrees to be monitored by his or her physician, who will report to the state Health Department on the patient’s health status and the effect of medical marijuana treatment on it.
It will be a crime under the Minnesota law for any person to transfer any form of marijuana (including the extract specified by the law) to anyone who is not a patient registered with the state. Illegal transfer could result in jail time, a fine of $3,000, or both.
Some medical marijuana advocates and patients are troubled by the limitations imposed by the Minnesota law. For example, many patients who prefer to smoke marijuana leaves argue that the extract they must use under the law will be more expensive per dose than the dried plant form. And, many patients simply prefer to smoke marijuana rather than ingest it via other means.