The road to the legalization of Cannabis sativa in the United States has been a (very) long, intricate one. As more states establish the infrastructure for medical use, others, including Minnesota, are taking their next leap by considering legalizing cannabis for recreational use. In 2014, Minnesota passed a restrictive medical program that has since been expanded but still leaves patients with a hazy future and an absurdly expensive out-of-pocket cost to obtain their medicine.
As a result, many lawmakers and Minnesotans are fighting to pass recreational legalization to increase access to those who need it, as well as prevent Minnesotans from reverting to black market cannabis, which has the potential to be dangerous.
Mapping Out the Legal Blueprint for Minnesota Cannabis Consumers
Minnesota’s goal to develop strong recreational laws and guidelines for residents begins with reflecting on the errors lawmakers have made before as well as faults in the current medical system. Minnesota, like any state really, seeks to create a stable market for both medical and recreational users. Although recreational cannabis in Minnesota is currently decriminalized, possession of virtually any amount is still considered a misdemeanor and the convicted individual is subject to a $200 fine and may be required to take a course on drug education. Paraphernalia is also heavily fined, with possession being a $300 offense, and sales subject to $1,000 in penalties.
For medical cannabis patients in Minnesota, there’s another set of strict and expensive regulations that must be followed. First, only certain conditions currently qualify someone as a patient. These include a variety of chronic illnesses such as cancer, glaucoma, post-traumatic stress disorder and Alzheimer's disease. To begin the process of becoming a medical cannabis user, patients must first be diagnosed with one of the qualifying conditions, prescribed cannabis by a cannabis-certified doctor, and registered with the state of Minnesota through an online portal. After an initial waiting time of up to 30 days, the patient is officially enrolled and can obtain and use their medicine.
Some other setbacks for cannabis patients in Minnesota include the availability of cannabis (or lack thereof) which can only be obtained in pill, vapor, topical, or liquid forms from one of eight patient centers in the entire state, the fact that patients are not allowed to cultivate their own medicine, and the overwhelming expense. In total, medical patients can expect to pay a $200 patient registration for the state, and the recurring cost of their medication, which can reportedly cost anywhere from less than $25 to up to nearly $300 and will depend on the patient’s dosage requirements for relief.
Lawmakers in Minnesota are becoming increasingly aware of the medical cannabis needs of their community and have included broader medical conditions, such as chronic pain, in cannabis patient eligibility criteria. Additionally, more methods of consumption are slowly being approved, more patient centers are expected to open, and reduced registration fees are available for patients pre-enrolled in specific medical assistance programs. These outstanding factors and small changes are currently supplementing the push for broad legalization. They are also guiding professionals to seriously consider more relaxed laws, beginning with the evaluation of other states’ groundwork to analyze what would and wouldn't work for the prospective Minnesota market.
Learning from the Success of Others
In Minnesota's journey to legalizing recreational cannabis, there have been many conferences and discussions on how everything will become established business-wise. One of the strategies recently used by business and law-making professionals is to view the market statistics of fully legal states, such as Oregon, and Colorado. At a recent conference, the Marijuana Policy Group from Denver estimated Minnesota's potential first-year sales profits at nearly $500 million dollars, with over $100 million dollars in tax revenue, and the potential for thousands of new jobs to be created as a result of the growing industry. In favor of most concerned citizens, local government officials are also interested in keeping the cannabis market in Minnesota locally owned and within small business operations compared to corporate, national businesses that are taking advantage of a budding economy.
An additional hurdle that Minnesotan lawmakers must pass is the delicate balance of how many cannabis operations to approve. If there is either a surplus or deficit compared to customer demand, or if the cost is too extravagant, the recreational market will encourage the previously established black market and illegal sales. For example, in Oregon, there has become an abundance of storefronts and cultivators, which can possibly attract individuals that want to profit by illegally reselling goods to other states. As of now, Minnesota is on the opposing spectrum, with too few medical establishments and restrictive growing laws that could also encourage fellow Minnesotans to act upon their own personal agendas and advocacies.
Moving Forward in the Story
Despite the challenges of establishing a future recreational market, progress is slowly but surely being made in the Midwest. Just a few years ago, a new cannabis cultivar was developed in Minnesota called ”Katelyn Faith” which was independently tested and proven to contain thirty-four times more CBD (cannabidiol) than delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC (as a ratio of 34:1). Cultivated by Minnesota Medical Solutions and named after Katelyn Faith Pauling, an eight-year-old with Batten Disease, an illness that causes seizures and the inability to talk, the plant’s high CBD content is an appealing option to others suffering from epilepsy or similar disorders, especially young children and their parents, or other individuals who may desire more pain and symptom relief without the intoxicating effects of THC.
The increasing legalization of cannabis across the nation along with continued innovation for creating CBD-rich cultivars shows great potential for future medical treatments designed around cannabis. Furthermore, it highlights that with time and some careful planning, Minnesota will become a strong player in the industry in developing major economic impact. But, of course, only time will tell.