The Minnesota Department of Health has set out to solve two of the great mysteries of legalized medical marijuana in this state: How many patients might use the drug and where do they live?
On Tuesday, the department launched an online survey on its Minnesota Medical Cannabis site, asking patients and caregivers to weigh in as the state rushes toward legalization on July 1.
"We're making good progress in the development of this program, and as we move into the next phases we are looking for Minnesotans to help give us a bit more information about patients' conditions, location and level of interest," Assistant Health Commissioner Manny Munson-Regala said in a statement Tuesday. "This information will help us and the certified manufacturers refine plans and set up the program in a manner that best serves patients."
The survey is trying to gauge how many patients have one of the qualifying conditions conditions that would allow them to buy marijuana in pill or liquid form -- the only legal form of the drug in Minnesota. Those conditions include certain cancers and terminal illnesses, seizure disorders and muscle spasms, Crohn's disease, glaucoma, AIDS and Tourette's syndrome.
The tight timeline for legalization forced the state to set up a medical marijuana infrastructure without some key information. The two manufacturers the Health Department selected last month -- LeafLine Labs and Minnesota Medical Solutions -- have begun growing their first crops of cannabis and planning their first product line without a clear idea of the number of patients they might see, or the types of conditions they might have.
The manufacturers also selected eight dispensary sites around the state before they knew where their patients might live. The state will have one dispensary in each of its eight congressional districts -- Minneapolis, St. Paul, Eagan and Maple Grove, St. Cloud, Hibbing, Moorhead and Rochester -- a map that leaves broad swaths of the state hours away from the nearest clinic.
The survey also wants to know the age of potential enrollees, their health coverage status and how many of the patients who would qualify for the program actually plan to do so. Registering for the Medical Cannabis Program will cost $200 -- although low-income patients would pay just $50. The cost of the drug itself has not yet been set by the manufacturers.
You can visit the full Minnesota Medical Cannabis site here.