New year brings new hope for marijuana policy reform
Last update: January 8, 2019
In November 2018, Minnesota voters elected a new governor — Tim Walz — who supports legalizing and regulating cannabis for adults! Meanwhile, over in Michigan, 56% of voters approved a ballot initiative to end marijuana prohibition, making it the first state in the Midwest to legalize marijuana.
Now, with the dawn of a new legislative session — and a supportive governor — there is renewed hope that the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes may have a path to legalizing and regulating marijuana. But significant obstacles remain. Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said legalizing marijuana would be "counterproductive to what we're trying to do on opioids."
A successful campaign will require a sustained lobbying and organizing effort. Please chip in to our Minnesota effort to end cannabis prohibition.
MPP is thrilled to announce we’re bringing on attorney Jason Tarasek as our Minnesota political director. Jason is lobbying lawmakers and working with allies to build a strong coalition to legalize adult-use cannabis. If you’re a member of an organization that might consider supporting legalization, let Jason know.
We’re also looking to engage community leaders who support regulating marijuana — such as local officials, members of the clergy, law enforcement, civil rights leaders, educators, and medical professionals. If you are one of those individuals, or if you know one who is up for supporting the effort, please reach out, too.
And we can’t forget the importance of grassroots pressure. It’s crucial that lawmakers hear that their constituents want them to end the disastrous war on marijuana. You can use our free, automated system to send a email to your newly elected legislators.
Minnesota’s medical marijuana program expands, but remains flawed
In 2014, then-Governor Mark Dayton signed into law a medical marijuana program after insisting on modifications that made it extremely restrictive and that drive up the costs of medical cannabis.
After the first year of the program, 92% of patients reported some benefit from their treatment, and 67% reported a great deal of benefit. However, more than half of the patients who registered and made purchases within the first six months stopped purchasing medical cannabis from dispensaries by the end of 2016. In the same survey, 86% of patients reported that they found medical cannabis to be at least somewhat unaffordable, with 29% reporting prices as very prohibitive.
Local advocates, often with assistance from MPP, have petitioned the Minnesota Office of Medical Cannabis to add qualifying conditions. As a result, the program has slowly expanded. The office added intractable pain in 2015, PTSD in 2016, and obstructive sleep apnea and autism in late 2017. It is currently considering adding opioid use disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, Hepatitis C, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, panic disorder, psoriasis, and traumatic brain injury.
Despite these improvements, Minnesota’s program still has serious limitations, including that it is the only operational medical program that does not allow patients to access and use marijuana flowers. Instead, the state only allows extracts and other preparations, which are more costly and which many patients find do not work as well. Another issue that leads to shortages and high pricing is that there are only two businesses licensed to provide medical marijuana in the state.
In order to better serve the patients of Minnesota, the legislature and department should work together to add access to flower and to license additional businesses.
Please sign up for our alerts so you can stay involved to make sure the program serves patients well.