A distribution glitch at one of Minnesota's two medical marijuana providers has left some patients with little or no supply left for treatment of conditions such as chronic pain, epileptic seizures and Tourette syndrome.
One patient, Katie Kennedy, said she called LeafLine Labs on Monday because she had no cannabis left for the management of her chronic pain and only a two-day supply left for the management of her son's Tourette syndrome and autism. She said a LeafLine representative told her it had none available until Friday, though it later provided a small quantity to get her son through the week.
"I will be in great pain by the end of the week," said Kennedy, who suffers from fibromyalgia and chronic back problems.
In a written statement, LeafLine Chief Executive Dr. Andrew Bachman said the shortage is temporary and blamed it on the Thanksgiving holiday and delays at a third-party lab that must test its cannabis products before they can be distributed. LeafLine closed its Eagan facility for the week and directed clients to its St. Paul facility.
"LeafLine Labs has plenty of inventory, but due to some unforeseen delays at the lab, including the recent holiday, we are still waiting for our certificate of analysis to release more product to our patients," he said.
Kennedy was among several Minnesota users of medical marijuana who complained on a group social media page about the shortage and who said LeafLine offered a variety of excuses.
Patrick McClellan, who uses the preparation for muscular dystrophy and advocated for Minnesota's first medical marijuana law in 2014, said patients were given several explanations this week. Some were told LeafLine experienced a shortage of bottles, while others said LeafLine blamed a surge of patients or the need to replace old equipment.
The Minnesota Department of Health, which regulates medical marijuana, is aware of the patients' concerns and is looking into the matter, a spokesman said Wednesday.
Regardless of the cause, McClellan said the disruption points out a weakness in Minnesota's medical marijuana program, which limits production and sales to two state-licensed distributors — LeafLine and Minnesota Medical Solutions.
McClellan said supply disruptions could prompt some patients to revert to old opioid prescriptions to manage pain — a danger because they wouldn't be able to tolerate their old dosages after being off them for so long and would be at risk of overdose.
"That could be extremely dangerous," he said.
State regulators could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.
Kennedy said her son's medical marijuana prescription is technically for his Tourette syndrome but that he really uses it for symptoms caused by his autism. She said she hopes state officials will add autism to the list of qualifying conditions later this year. She said LeafLine has always been helpful until now.
"Running out of our medicine shows that we need more options in the state," she said.