Minnesota is moving quickly to provide limited access to medical marijuana. Marijuana legalization is generally a slow process, with most states taking a couple of years to go from legalization to having product available for purchase. Yet Minnesota this week announced that it plans to make it possible for medical marijuana patients to be able to purchase cannabis in less than a year.
Its Office of Medical Cannabis also announced that it has already hired a doctor to oversee cannabis research and that it will be working for Minnesota patients be to able to receive medical marijuana beginning in July 2015. The state first needs to select two registered medical cannabis manufacturers from the twelve that actually completed the application and paid the $20,000 registration fee. The state is saying that it will be narrowing the field to two by December 1, 2014. The two chosen cannabis producers will in the first part of 2015 be able to establish four retail sites each around the state so that patients can begin applying in February and March and then purchase medicinal marijuana in July.
Working with local Minnesota counsel our cannabis business lawyers oversaw the filing of a Minnesota producer application. We would have liked to have done more than one, but with only two applicants eligible to go forward as producers, we concluded that we could only represent one applicant without engendering an ethical conflict.
Minnesota hired Dr. Thomas Arneson to oversee research on the effects of marijuana for Minnesota’s upcoming medical marijuana program. He will serve as the state’s expert on medical marijuana, researching and detailing its risks and benefits. Dr. Arneson is an internal medicine specialist who will conduct his research under the auspices of the Minnesota Department of Health’s Office of Medical Cannabis. He will collect and interpret data from patients that use cannabis pills, oils, or vapors for specific conditions. The Office of Medical Cannabis stated that the program Dr. Arneson will run “strives to answer questions related to dosage, side effects, delivery methods, compound interactions, and other considerations specific to various diseases and conditions.”
Conducting cannabis research outside of government has proven to be difficult. A professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota, Dr. Kalpna Gupta, spent four years waiting for approval to study “whether vaporized cannabis was an effective pain relief treatment for patients with sickle cell disease,” before finally receiving the necessary federal government approvals. Dr. Gupta believes that her research itself will take another four years to complete. Though the University of Minnesota hosts one of only two labs in the United States licensed by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency to grow and study cannabis, such privilege matters little if securing approval for a study still takes four years. MinnesotaWhatever happened to the idea that scientific inquiry is a good thing, no matter what it ends up proving in the end? It would certainly be nice if our own government supported the pursuit of truth and knowledge. Scientific studies on the efficacy of marijuana for various different medical conditions are essential, no matter whether they prove its efficacy or not.
Minnesota’s new medical cannabis laws are very restrictive in terms of the conditions for which a patient will be eligible for usage. They also allow cannabis in only non-smokable forms and prohibit any home growing of marijuana.
Though its laws are too strict, we are impressed by Minnesota’s efforts to quickly implement its medical marijuana program and we are fairly confident that these already enacted laws are just going to be the first step towards a massive liberalization of marijuana access in Minnesota.