Election Day brings new hope for marijuana policy reform
Last update: November 12, 2018
On Election Day, 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.
A November 2018 KTSP/Survey USA poll found 56% of Minnesota voters also support adult-use legalization, with only 32% opposed and 12% undecided. But Minnesota lacks a voter initiative process. The only way to replace marijuana prohibition with thoughtful regulation in the Land of 10,000 Lakes is via the state legislature.
Let your state lawmakers know you want Minnesota to follow the lead of Michigan and eight other states by replacing marijuana prohibition with legalization, regulation, and taxation. (A 10th state, Vermont, has legalized marijuana possession and cultivation but does not yet allow regulated sales.)
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.
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