Minnesota’s two medical marijuana growers received state approval Wednesday to continue supplying cannabis to patients, even though one was ensnared in a criminal case involving ex-employees who allegedly smuggled a half-million dollars worth of cannabis oil out of the state.
The state health commissioner, Dr. Ed Ehlinger, said he re-registered Minnesota Medical Solutions and LeafLine Labs for two more years after reviewing their medical and economic contributions since the state legalized medical cannabis in 2015.
The two now serve an active registry of more than 6,000 patients with conditions such as glaucoma, cancer and intractable pain — and are expected to see more patients now that post-traumatic stress disorder is added, as of Aug. 1, as a qualifying condition for Minnesota’s program.
“We are proud that Minnesota’s medical cannabis program has become a model for other states, but there have been challenges along the way as well,” Ehlinger said.
Criminal charges were filed this year against two former executives with Vireo Health, the parent company of Minnesota Medical Solutions, for transporting cannabis oil from Minnesota to an affiliated company in New York. Maryland’s Medical Cannabis Commission took steps to deny a license to a Vireo affiliate there following the incident.
Minnesota regulators this year tightened state oversight of medical marijuana growers by adding a broader menu of sanctions and fines for violations and requiring that companies use “seed to sale” tracking software to monitor the whereabouts of their products.
Minnesota’s two companies were registered for business through December 2017, but Ehlinger said they needed a decision now so they could plan for two more years of operations. He added that he didn’t consider the ongoing criminal case in his decision to re-register Minnesota Medical Solutions but may issue sanctions against the company after the case is over.
Ehlinger said the Health Department has received requests to permit medical marijuana for additional conditions such as autism, dementia and peripheral neuropathy. State analysts will research the use of cannabis for these conditions, and Ehlinger said he will decide in the coming months whether to add them.