Lawmakers are proposing a few tweaks to Minnesota's medical marijuana law.
Patients suffering from inflammatory bowel disease — now shut out of the program — could legally enroll with the Office of Medical Cannabis if the House and Senate agree. The program is already open to patients with Crohn's disease — one type of IBD — but not patients with related conditions such as ulcerative colitis.
It's a small change, but one that Dr. Kyle Kingsley, CEO of cannabis manufacturer Minnesota Medical Solutions, hopes will give more people access to a program that has struggled with low enrollment and high prices.
As of Friday, the state had enrolled 1,190 medical cannabis patients. That figure is expected to increase dramatically after August, when the program expands to serve patients suffering from intractable pain.
"We're pretty excited about pain coming on board, and we anticipate it will help drive down prices," said Kingsley, an emergency room physician and founder of one of the two companies the state selected to grow, refine and sell medical cannabis. "That's what keeps me up at night — prices."
The cost of a month's supply of medical cannabis can range from less than $100 to well over $1,000, depending on the patient's condition. Because the federal government still considers marijuana a dangerous and illicit substance, no insurance company will cover that expense.
Minnesota's program is open to patients with one of nine serious medical conditions, including certain cancers and terminal illnesses, seizure disorders and AIDS.
Legislation proposed by Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, and Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, would make a handful of changes — removing a requirement that pharmacists personally dispense cannabis to patients by hand and allowing pharmacists to consult via teleconference once the companies open dispensaries in outstate cities such as Hibbing and Moorhead.
An earlier version of the bill proposed changes to the timetable to open the state's next five medical cannabis clinics, but Dibble, who crafted the original medical cannabis law, said the provision was dropped as unnecessary.
Eight cannabis care centers are supposed to be up and running by August. Right now, the state has three.
Dibble's bill, SF 2767, passed out of committee on a voice vote Friday and heads for a floor vote next. The House Health and Human Services Reform Committee could take up its version of the legislation as early as next week.