Medical marijuana program launched, intractable pain patients now qualify


Last update: October 21, 2016


In a multi-year effort, patients and their loved ones joined with MPP’s lobbying team under the umbrella group Minnesotans for Compassionate Care to bring a compassionate medical marijuana law to the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Gov. Mark Dayton deferred to certain law enforcement organizations and fiercely opposed comprehensive bills. But, in the face of TV ads, protests on his lawn, and the relentless pleas for compassion, he eventually relented and signed a medical cannabis bill into law on May 2014. Unfortunately, he had first succeeded in making the law far more limited by excluding patients with intractable pain.

Despite Gov. Dayton’s reluctance to allow medical marijuana, his health department swiftly and faithfully implemented the medical marijuana program, and the first dispensaries opened only 13 months after the law’s enactment. It also approved adding intractable pain as a qualifying condition, and the leading opponent to medical marijuana — Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association Executive Director Dennis Flaherty —  did not object.

Beginning on August 1, 2016, intractable pain patients are no longer left behind. Patients, their loved ones, and advocates will continue to work to fix other limitations in the law, including the prohibition on whole plant marijuana — which drives up prices and limits options — the limited number of dispensaries, and the exclusion of other serious ailments. In July 2016, advocates submitted a petition urging the health department to also include PTSD patients, who qualify for medical marijuana in 17 other states and Washington, D.C.

One of MPP’s 2014 TV ads urging Gov. Dayton not to stand in the way of medical marijuana legislation.

Learn about Minnesota’s marijuana laws


In 2012, there were 12,051 marijuana-related arrests in Minnesota. Sixty-two percent of those arrests were for marijuana possession. While the penalty for a first offense of possessing a small amount of marijuana in Minnesota is a $200 fine and mandatory drug education, having two ounces could land Minnesotans in jail for five years! These arrests hit minority communities the hardest. According to data from the ACLU, African Americans in Minnesota are nearly eight times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession as their white neighbors!

Ask your lawmakers to remove penalties for adults who choose to use, possess, or purchase marijuana and to create a system that regulates and taxes the production and distribution of marijuana similarly to alcohol. You can learn more about Minnesota’s marijuana penalties and enforcement by reading this report by Jon Gettman, Ph.D.