(Last update: February 11, 2020)
Medical Marijuana: Yes
Recreational Marijuana: No
In-Home Cultivation: -
Minnesota Legislature convenes; House majority leader outlines legalization principles
On February 11, 2020, lawmakers convened in Saint Paul for the first day of their 2020 legislative session. A week earlier, House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler (D) outlined principles for legalization. His bill — which will be introduced soon —will be crafted based on input from stakeholders, including from hundreds of Minnesotans who participated in his 15-stop "Be Heard on Cannabis" tour over the fall and winter.
Rep. Winkler explained, “By creating a regulatory framework we can address the harms caused by cannabis and establish a more sensible set of laws to improve our health care and criminal justice systems and ensure better outcomes for communities.”
Unfortunately, leadership in the Senate is behind the times. Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa) has said the Republican caucus is strongly opposed, and the bill would not pass the Senate. But, even passage in the House would be a tremendous step forward. And, the entire legislature will be on the ballot in November.
Minnesota’s medical marijuana program expands, but remains flawed
In 2014, then-Governor Mark Dayton signed into law a medical marijuana program after insisting on modifications that made it extremely restrictive and that drive up the costs of medical cannabis.
After the first year of the program, 92% of patients reported some benefit from their treatment, and 67% reported a great deal of benefit. However, more than half of the patients who registered and made purchases within the first six months stopped purchasing medical cannabis from dispensaries by the end of 2016. In the same survey, 86% of patients reported that they found medical cannabis to be at least somewhat unaffordable, with 29% reporting prices as very prohibitive.
Local advocates, often with assistance from MPP, have petitioned the Minnesota Office of Medical Cannabis to add qualifying conditions. As a result, the program has slowly expanded. The office added intractable pain in 2015, PTSD in 2016, obstructive sleep apnea and autism in late 2017, and Alzheimer’s disease in 2018. In December 2019, the health department approved chronic pain and macular degeneration, which will be added in August 2020.
Despite these improvements, Minnesota’s program still has serious limitations, including that it is the only operational medical program that does not allow patients to access and use marijuana flowers. Instead, the state only allows extracts and other preparations, which are more costly and which many patients find do not work as well. Another issue that leads to shortages and high pricing is that there are only two businesses licensed to provide medical marijuana in the state.