With little fanfare, on the last day of the session, Minnesota lawmakers voted Tuesday to expand the state’s medical Cannabis program to allow patients to smoke the dried plant.
Minnesota has had a medical cannabis law since 2014. But like the one just passed in Alabama, it’s one of the nation’s most restrictive. It only allows cannabis in liquid, oil and pill forms. If Gov. Tim Walz signs the bill as expected, the law will soon allow for the combustion of dried raw cannabis.
“This is by far the most important change since we originally got this law passed,” said medical Cannabis activist and patient Patrick McClellan. He uses cannabis to treat a rare form of muscular dystrophy, reports MPR News. But the cost of liquid cannabis has been a barrier, McClellan said.
“What we ended up with is basically a designer drug for the rich,” he said. “This was only for people that could afford it.”
Costs are expected to come down for Minnesota patients with use of raw cannabis. Patients hope that will make the medicine more accessible.
Benson: It’s Just About Helping Patients
Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, the chair of the Senate health and human services committee, stressed that the change is just about helping patients.
“It is not our goal to make this a path to legalization,” Benson said during a Senate debate on Monday. “It’s a goal to make this available to people with a medical need who cannot afford it. So, we hope we’ve reached the right balance.”
The new medical cannabis law takes effect by March 1, 2022, or once a procedure is in place for the testing of dried raw cannabis from the state’s manufacturers.
An adult-use Cannabis legalization bill stalled in the Minnesota Senate this session after passing the House. DFL House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler of Golden Valley, who sponsored the full-legalization effort, praised the medical Cannabis change.
Allowing flower, which is much cheaper to produce, could reduce costs to “maybe to a third of what they are now,” according to Winkler. “It’s a significant accomplishment in the movement,” he said.