Minnesota Cannabis Legalization Bill Leaves Majority of Patients Out in The Cold
NEW YORK ( MainStreet) Minnesota, which has just passed its first medical cannabis legalization legislation into law , is already facing pushback from patients and patients' rights groups for the highly restrictive regulatory mandate.
"Minnesota's medical marijuana law is very disturbing from a patients' rights perspective," said Kris Hermes, spokesperson for Americans For Safe Access, a national patients' rights group. "It excludes significant numbers of patients or even criminalizes many of them ."
The new law allows for a narrow range of medicinal use , and authorizes only manufactured cannabis oils and pills manufactured in-state by only two (yet to be licensed or constructed) manufacturing plants. The end products will only be available from a mere 8 dispensaries state wide.
Many activists and advocates are concerned that such a restrictive bill will have a huge and negative impact on patients who often turn to medical cannabis as a medicine of last resort for a long list of chronic ailments .
"The biggest impact of Minnesota's law on patients is that they will not be able to cultivate their own medical marijuana and if they are found possessing the dried plant they will be in violation of state law and could be prosecuted," Hermes said. "Most importantly, patients are prohibited from smoking medical marijuana, which is the most common of consumption. This, alone, will exclude huge numbers of patients and unnecessarily criminalize them."
Of concern to national groups, says Hermes, "Minnesota went even further [than other states] by restricting the method of consumption used by patients. Only the legislature knows why smoked medical marijuana was singled out, but it is likely due to unfounded and misperceived health concerns. It certainly wasn't developed with the input and feedback of patients."
And to many activists and advocates, it is this aspect of the bill that raises the most concerns .
Heather Azzi of Minnesotans for Compassionate Care , a state advocacy group, shares Hermes' perspective of the problem and its cause. "To make a long story short," she said, "this was a political solution to a policy problem."
Passage of the legislation was marked by ongoing disagreements between Governor Mark Dayton and the legislature resulting in a bill created more from acrimonious political posturing than a focus on patients' needs.
"Policymakers should be including the voices of patients in developing these laws so that they better meet their needs, and ultimately implement more effective programs," Hermes said.
Azzi shares these concerns. "There is widespread concern now among the advocate and patient community that the current law only protects about 5,000 patients with very specific medical conditions," she said. "Over 33,000 patients with a much longer list of ailments have now been left without access to medicine they need."