New survey results are giving Minnesota a glimpse of the patients waiting to enroll in the state's new medical marijuana program this summer.
The Health Department launched the online survey earlier this month, trying to figure out who the potential patients might be and what conditions they were hoping to treat with the drug, once it becomes legal on July 1. The state was also trying to figure out how many patients live near one of the eight designated medical cannabis clinic locations.
In all, 1,361 patients responded to the survey. Seventy percent said they were likely to register; 24 percent said they might register, depending on costs and whether their program covered their condition; and 7 percent said they would not.
More than half of the patients who responded said they have multiple sclerosis or other conditions that cause severe muscle spasms. Epilepsy and cancer were the next most common conditions among the patients who responded, followed by glaucoma, Crohn's disease and terminal illnesses.
The average age of prospective cannabis users was 42. Almost 10 percent were children 18 years old or younger, while just under 9 percent were ages 65 or older. Half of respondents said they were on public assistance programs like Medicaid or Social Security disability, which would allow them to enroll in the program for $50, rather than the standard $200 fee.
The results are nonscientific, the Health Department noted in its press release. But the responses, which came in from 92 percent of the state's counties, do offer program planners the first sense of who the patients might be, and where they might live.
Respondents identified themselves by zip code, and the area with the most responses was in Brainerd, where 24 people responded in zip code 56401 -- more than either of the highest-responding areas in Minneapolis (55406) or St. Paul (55112), with 22 and 19 responses, respectively. Zip codes in Austin, Mankato and Moorhead came next with 17 responses each.
The eight medical cannabis dispensing sites the law currently allows are planned for Eagan, Hibbing, Maple Grove, Minneapolis, Moorhead, Rochester, St. Cloud and St. Paul. By law, marijuana will only be sold to patients with certain conditions, and only in the form of pills or liquids, not the raw plant form of the drug.