Minnesota’s nascent medical marijuana program saw its greatest weekly jump in participants with growth of 50 percent in the first full week of July.

As of Friday, 147 patients had paid their fees, completed their paperwork and were eligible to participate in the program. That was up from the 98 patients approved at the end of the monthlong enrollment leading up to the July 1 legalization date.

A total of 276 patients have now been certified by a health care practitioner to participate in the program, up from the 192 for the entire month of June, according to the state Department of Health. “Last week was probably the largest jump we’ve seen for patient enrollment,” said Michelle Larson, director of the state Office of Medical Cannabis.

In the lead-up to legalization, the state and two companies spent millions on the launch. Patient enrollment was projected to to ramp up rather than spike quickly. Minnesota’s regulation remains relatively restrictive compared to other states. State rules allow cannabis to be sold only in pill or liquid form to patients with one or more of nine serious illnesses. Smokable marijuana is not allowed under the program. Patients must be certified by a health care provider to participate.

“We continue to expect the numbers to build over time as people get familiar with the program,” Larson said.

Interest from health care practitioners continues to increase, but there’s no prediction from Larson on how the rate of enrollment will proceed.

“I don’t have any control over what patients and health care practitioners will do,” she said.

What is expected is continued growth as practitioners and patients become familiar with treatment, she said. So far, officials say the program’s enrollment tracks expectations.

Eight dispensaries will provide the product to patients.

As of last week, 297 health care practitioners had contacted the Heath Department to participate in the program and 265 were registered and ready to certify patients up from 232 certified practitioners for the month of June.

The department updates enrollment numbers every Friday.


Twitter: @rochelleolson