Medical cannabis bill would cut costs and improve access

A bill to expand Minnesota’s Medical Cannabis program passed through the Health and Human Services committee this week. Among the proposed changes aimed at improving accessibility of the program is allowing patients 21 and over to purchase and smoke the raw cannabis flower.

Thirty-six states have medical cannabis programs, but Minnesota is the only one that prohibits the use of raw cannabis. The current allowable forms and delivery methods of cannabis are more processed and more expensive, coming in liquid, pill, vaporized, or topical products. Testifiers in support of this bill note that this proposed change may reduce the cost of medical cannabis by close to 50%, drastically improving the affordability of this program that is otherwise not covered by insurance. Other changes included in this bill would add opiate addiction to the list of qualifying conditions and continue modifications made during the pandemic for curbside pickup and telehealth consultation options.

The long-overdue changes to this program are being discussed amid growing support for broader adult-use legalization. House DFLers recently moved a bill to legalize and regulate marijuana through its first-ever committee hearing, but Senate Republicans have refused to debate this legislation. Gaining more traction in the House and Senate are efforts to reclassify cannabis from a schedule I drug, which includes illicit substances that have no medical value such as heroin and LSD, to a schedule II drug. (SF 1179)