A proposed bill in the Minnesota state senate would make it legal for medical cannabis patients in the state to use marijuana flower for treatment.
The legislation cleared its first hurdle earlier this month, with the bill getting passed out of the Senate Health and Human Services Finance and Policy Committee on March 1. According to local television station KSTP, current law in Minnesota only allows medical cannabis to be distributed in pill or liquid form.
Such restrictions have been decried by cannabis advocates, who argue that patients ought to be able to receive treatment in its most common form. Consumption methods like tinctures and oils are also generally more expensive for both the producer and consumer. Former Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton signed the state’s medical marijuana law in 2014, which has gradually expanded in the years since to include more qualifying conditions.
Criticism of The State’s Current Medical Cannabis Program
The state’s restrictions have prompted some to call Minnesota’s medical cannabis program one of the most conservative in the country. And those restrictions also prevent many patients from turning to cannabis rather than more dangerous painkillers.
One member of the Health and Human Services Finance and Policy Committee, state Sen. Matt Klein, expressed tepid support for the bill.
“I do hear from my addiction medicine friends that there is no evidence to support this in the medical literature, so it is not an evidence-based approach,” Klein told KSTP. “On the other hand, the testimony does have a point that the margin of toxicity in cannabis is extremely low and our burden of illness with opioid addiction is extremely high and very dangerous.”
As MinnPost noted, the proposed bill also includes “provisions to continue pandemic-related provisions such as curbside delivery” and “to add opioid addiction as one of the medical conditions for which marijuana can be authorized.”
The effort to expand the state’s medical cannabis program comes at the same time that Minnesota lawmakers are also taking up proposals to legalize recreational marijuana. Last month, legislators renewed their bid for legalization, inspired in part by what voters in their neighbors to the west did last November.
“The ability for Minnesotans to drive across the border to get cannabis is going to increase significantly,” Minnesota House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler said at the time. “People are willing to drive to Wisconsin in order to buy fireworks. They’re sure as heck going to drive to South Dakota to get cannabis.”
(That was before a South Dakota judge struck down the voter-approved amendment to legalize pot in the state)
The legalization effort has significant support in the state, including from the state’s Democratic governor, Tim Walz, but advocates of the medical cannabis expansion have been quick to draw a distinction between the two efforts, noting the sensitivity of ending prohibition on recreational pot use.
“There’s some angst around updating our medical cannabis program and much of it is related to what we don’t know about medical cannabis and its place in the world of medicine,” state Sen. Michelle Benson said, as quoted by MinnPost. “But more of it is about a legalization conversation, which I know is intensifying. This is a sincere step to update our medical cannabis program. It is not a path to legalization.”