It’s been two years since the first Minnesotans picked up prescriptions for medical marijuana.
The program that launched on July 1, 2015, with a handful of patients had 6,184 active participants as of Friday. That’s modest by comparison to other state programs, but it tops state lawmakers’ goal of 5,000 within the first few years.
After a slow first year, thousands of new patients flooded in last summer when the program expanded to serve people suffering from intractable pain.
The entry of pain patients — who make up the bulk of medical cannabis users in states where pain is a qualifying condition — has “really changed the dynamic. It’s allowed us to repeatedly lower prices,” said Dr. Kyle Kingsley, CEO of Minnesota Medical Solutions, one of just two companies the state licenses to grow, process and sell cannabis.
Both MinnMed and rival LeafLine hemorrhaged money in the program’s early years. MinnMed posted losses of $3 million in its first year and $1 million the next, Kingsley said. But the company hopes to turn its first profit sometime this year.
“The experiment in Minnesota has worked, as far as proving that a very strict medical program is viable. I think it’s safe for us to say that now,” Kingsley said.
The program will expand again in August to add post-traumatic stress disorder to the 10 conditions now covered by the program.
For more information about the Health Department’s Office of Medical Cannabis, visit health.state.mn.us/topics/cannabis.