It took years, many false starts and a veto, but Minnesota medical marijuana advocates finally succeeded in getting a bill that’s on track to become law in a matter of days.
A broad bipartisan majority of state lawmakers in the Minnesota House of Representatives approved legislation to provide access to medical cannabis to improve the quality of life of Minnesotans with serious medical conditions on Friday. The bill passed by a vote of 89-40.
The Senate passed the same bill earlier Friday by a vote of 46-16. It now heads to Governor Mark Dayton, who says he will sign it into law.
The compromise bill, announced Thursday by the Dayton administration, state lawmakers and advocates, addresses the medical community’s desire for medical oversight and for gathering quality information about patients’ health impacts while accommodating the safety and security concerns of the law enforcement community.
“This year, Minnesota took an important step toward improving the quality of life of people with serious and terminal medical conditions like cancer, HIV/AIDS and seizure disorders,” said Rep. David Bly (DFL-Northfield). “We forged a strong bipartisan compromise that provides relief to suffering children and adults while addressing concerns of law enforcement and the medical community.”
Bly believes the bill is a first step and can be improved upon in coming years after there is an opportunity to closely examine the research and outcomes − research, he says, that will help us better understand how and why medical cannabis can benefit patients.
Rice County Sheriff Troy Dunn said that although he was pleased that a compromise was finally reached, he was concerned that there would be too many distributors and about the potential for regulation difficulty.
“I like that they’re going to regulate the distributors. I’m also happy that they’re using the liquid extracts and taking the THC out and other things that have side effects,” Dunn said. “I just don’t want us to move too fast and have multiple distributors like Colorado did. I like Minnesota’s way of going about it cautiously. Also, I think it will be difficult to regulate people with a legal prescription who drive under the influence.”
“This year, Minnesota took an important step toward improving the quality of life of people with serious and terminal medical conditions like cancer, HIV/AIDS and seizure disorders. We forged a strong bipartisan compromise that provides relief to suffering children and adults while addressing concerns of law enforcement and the medical community. I think the bill is a first step we can improve upon in coming years after we have an opportunity to closely examine the research and outcomes — research that will help us better understand how and why medical cannabis can benefit patients.”
How it’s designed to help Minnesotans
The bill creates a safe method of providing medical cannabis to patients whose health care provider certifies them to be suffering from conditions such as: cancer associated with severe/chronic pain, nausea or severe vomiting, or cachexia or severe wasting; glaucoma; HIV/AIDS; Tourette’s syndrome; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; seizures, including those characteristic of epilepsy; severe and persistent muscle spasms, including those characteristic of multiple sclerosis; Crohn’s disease; and terminal illness with a life expectancy of less than one year, if the illness or treatment produces severe or chronic pain, nausea or severe vomiting, cachexia or severe wasting.
The bill creates a patient registry process for monitoring and evaluating the health impacts experienced by patients taking medical cannabis. This information will help health professionals broaden their understanding of the benefits, risks and side effects of medical cannabis.
The bill also establishes a medical cannabis task force that will conduct an assessment of medical cannabis therapeutic research. The task force will evaluate the state’s medical cannabis program and the impact of medical cannabis in Minnesota.
“Medical cannabis will provide relief to Minnesotans suffering from a host of ailments and illnesses,” said Sen. Kevin Dahle (DFL-Northfield). “The legislation passed this session is a product of lawmakers, advocates, law enforcement and the medical community working together to allow its use in a safe manner. This is an issue that we will continue to watch as we gather more information on the use of medical cannabis and its benefits and side-effects.”
How it will work
Step 1: Minnesotans seeking to use medical cannabis to treat one of the qualified medical conditions will receive certification of their condition from a Minnesota-licensed health care practitioner (a doctor, physician assistant or advanced practice nurse who is providing care to the patient). The Commissioner of Health will register a designated caregiver for a patient if the patient’s health care provider certifies that the patient is unable to self-administer medication.
Step 2: After receipt of a patient’s application, the Commissioner of Health will enroll the patient in the registry program and issue a registry verification. Applications will be denied only under specific circumstances, such as an applicant providing false information or an applicant lacking certification that he or she has one of the qualifying medical conditions.
Step 3: Minnesotans issued a registry verification will be eligible to receive medical cannabis for their condition at one of the distribution facilities set up by the state’s medical cannabis manufacturers.
Step 4: As part of their certification and participation in the program, patients must agree to continue treatment for their condition and their health care provider must agree to provide ongoing reports about the patient’s health status and condition.
How medical cannabis will be provided
The medical cannabis provided in the registry program will come from two in-state manufacturers licensed and inspected by the state.
To become registered manufacturers of medical cannabis, entities must apply to the Commissioner of Health for consideration. The commissioner will consider multiple factors in assessing manufacturer applications including fees to be charged.
The commissioner will require registered manufacturers to supply medical cannabis products to patients by July 1, 2015.
Medical cannabis will be provided to patients in approved forms, such as a liquid or pill that does not require the use of dried leaves or plant form but allows for whole plant extracts.
Each registered manufacturer will operate no more than four distribution facilities around the state. Facilities will be located based on geographical need and to improve patient access.
Registered manufacturers must contract with a laboratory for testing the quality and consistency of the medical cannabis products.