Smokable Medical Cannabis Coming to Minnesota in March

It’s been a long time coming, and finally, Minnesota will have smokable cannabis available for medical patients.
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Medical cannabis patients in Minnesota will see smokable cannabis flower in licensed retailers beginning next month, according to an announcement from state regulators. The Minnesota Department of Health said in a statement on Tuesday that the state’s medical cannabis dispensaries will be able to offer dried cannabis flower on March 1.

Dispensaries will offer pre-packaged dried cannabis flower and pre-rolled joints in a variety of strains and cannabinoid potency levels. Registered patients will be able to purchase up to a 90-day supply of cannabis at one time. Previously, state regulations only permitted patients to use processed cannabis products such as extracts, distillates, capsules and topicals.

It won’t be as easy as visiting a dispensary and picking out a favorite strain of bud, however. Under Minnesota’s medical cannabis regulations, patients must first complete a consultation with a medical cannabis dispensary pharmacist to change the type of medical marijuana they receive. 

“In preparation for the change, registered patients interested in smokable cannabis can make an appointment for a consultation with a medical cannabis dispensary pharmacist beginning Feb. 1 so they will be pre-approved to buy pre-packaged dried flower and pre-rolls once available,” the health department wrote in its statement. Patients have the option of either in-person or virtual consultations to satisfy the requirement.

Smokable cannabis flower will only be available to patients and caregivers ages 21 and older who are registered with the state’s medical cannabis program. Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm urged patients who are considering switching to cannabis flower to seek the advice of a health care professional before making the change.

“Patients need to weigh the risks of smoking medical cannabis, including those related to secondhand smoke and lung health, with any potential benefits,” said Malcolm. “Smokable cannabis may not be right for everyone; patients should have a conversation with their health care practitioner for guidance.”

Officials Expect Spike in Number of Minnesota Medical Cannabis Patients

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) expects the number of registered medical cannabis patients to double or even triple with the addition of smokable cannabis flower to the program. The health department cited an October 2021 survey of registered patients in which 71 percent of respondents said they were either very likely or somewhat likely to try smokable cannabis flower if it was made available.

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) noted in a statement that Minnesota is one of few states with legal medical marijuana that do not allow herbal forms of cannabis. The cannabis policy reform advocacy group also reiterated its long-held opinion that medical marijuana patients should have access to cannabis flower.

“Limiting patients’ options to extracted oral formulations is not in their best interests,” NORML wrote. “Herbal cannabis contains more than 100 distinct cannabinoids (unique physiologically active components in the plant), many of which act synergistically with one another.”

The new addition of cannabis flower to the medical marijuana products available to patients in Minnesota was made possible by a bill passed by lawmakers last year. Supporters of the bipartisan legislation said that the permitted products were too expensive for some patients. 

“It will make this more economically viable and more accessible to families,” Republican Senator Michelle Benson said at the time.

The legislation passed last year was the most substantive change to Minnesota’s medical cannabis program since it launched in 2014. The measure also added Crohn’s disease, some cancers, HIV, seizures and intractable pain as qualifying medical conditions to participate in the program.

The MDH also noted that patients will have another new option later this year when edible cannabis products including gummies and chews become available on August 1. The change was made last year during an annual petition and comment process that MDH uses to solicit public input on potential additions to qualifying medical conditions and cannabis delivery methods.

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