House majority leader urges Minnesotans to "Be Heard on Cannabis"
Last update: December 5, 2019
In August 2019, House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler (D) breathed new life into the effort to legalize and regulate adult-use cannabis in Minnesota. Winkler announced a statewide “Be Heard on Cannabis” listening tour, where he and his legislative colleagues have been hearing what voters want cannabis regulation to look like. After hearing from stakeholders, Winkler plans to introduce a new legalization bill and to shepherd it through the House in 2020.
Click here to take a survey to share your thoughts on priorities for cannabis regulation, sign up for updates, and find out the dates and times for the “Be Heard on Cannabis” listening tour. Don’t miss this opportunity to voice your support for sensible cannabis policy and to make your priorities heard.
Unfortunately, leadership in the Senate is behind the times. Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa) has said the Republican caucus is strongly opposed, and the bill would not pass the Senate. But, even passage in the House would be a tremendous step forward. And, the entire legislature will be on the ballot in November 2020.
It’s crucial that lawmakers hear that their constituents want them to end the disastrous war on marijuana. Use our free, automated system to send an email to your state legislators. You can also check out our allies at Minnesotans for Responsible Marijuana Regulation.
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, obstructive sleep apnea and autism in late 2017, and Alzheimer’s disease in 2018. In December 2019, the health department approved chronic pain and macular degeneration, which will be added in August 2020.
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.