DULUTH - The city is getting its first medical marijuana dispensary.
Duluth was an "obvious choice" for Minnesota Medical Solutions now that the state is requiring eight more distribution centers around the state, spokesman Albe Zakes said.
"Duluth is an ideal combination of a relatively large population center and for us a great market," he said. "Our goal will be to have one open sometime in 2020."
Though the company has the initial Department of Health approval to expand to Duluth, Zakes said no location has been chosen. The planning commission and City Council would need to sign off on the site before it opened.
In 2014, Duluth opened certain industrial and business zones, such as Rice's Point or the Airpark, for medical marijuana businesses, city spokeswoman Kate Van Daele said.
If a location cannot be found in Duluth, Hermantown recently passed rules allowing medical marijuana businesses in certain parts of town.
The next closest dispensary is in Hibbing, operated by LeafLine Labs.
The state Legislature this year mandated that each of Minnesota's two marijuana producers open four more distribution centers. LeafLine will be adding locations in Willmar, Mankato, Golden Valley and Rogers, while in addition to Duluth, Minnesota Medical Solutions will add centers in Woodbury, Blaine and Burnsville.
Earlier this month Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm added chronic pain and some eye conditions to the list of conditions that qualify for cannabis use.
Minnesotans with intractable pain already comprise the majority of the state's nearly 18,000 registered patients using medical marijuana. The addition of chronic pain is expected to further boost those numbers once the rule goes into effect in August.
Zakes said Minnesota Medical Solutions is able to expand its Otsego production facility to meet the expected increase in demand.
"The inclusion of chronic pain as a qualifying condition will help pave the way for even more patients to replace highly addictive prescription opioid pain medications such as fentanyl, oxycodone, morphine, hydromorphone as well as illicit, related street drugs like heroin with safer, regulated medical cannabis therapies," company founder Kyle Kingsley said in a statement.
The state will also start allowing marijuana in water-soluble powders and dissolvable lozenges starting next year.