Minnesota's first medical marijuana patient center is scheduled to open in Minneapolis Wednesday. Minnesota Medical Solutions is scheduled to open its doors to patients at 12:01 a.m. CDT.
"This is a great day for suffering patients who have been waiting a long time to have access to this medicine," said Patrick McClellan of Minnesotans for Compassionate Care, a Bloomington man with a rare form of muscular dystrophy who will be among the first patients served on Wednesday. "We are grateful that the Department of Health stepped up and implemented this law promptly. Patients in some states have had to wait years between their laws passing and medical marijuana finally becoming accessible."
Minnesota's medical marijuana law authorizes eight marijuana patient distribution centers throughout the state, and patients must comply with strict requirements in order to visit them. Their doctor must certify that they have one of nine specific medical conditions, which include cancer, HIV/AIDS, ALS, severe muscle spasms, seizures, Crohn's Disease, and glaucoma. Patients must then register with the state Department of Health and pay a $200 annual fee. Following each visit to a marijuana center, they must submit an online self-evaluation form before they may return to a center to obtain more medicine.
State records show only 41 patients have been approved and, according to Minnesota Medical Solutions, about half already have appointments for Wednesday.
Advocates say the law needs to cover more conditions and provide better access to qualified patients. A state advisory panel is currently considering a recommendation to add intractable pain as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana. Individuals suffering from nausea, wasting, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are also not covered by the law.
"The law does not cover thousands of Minnesotans who are suffering from debilitating conditions that could be treated with medical marijuana," said Robert Capecchi, deputy director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project. "Research and patient experience show that medical marijuana is often highly effective in treating severe, intractable pain. In some cases, people find it is the only thing that works for them.
"Medical marijuana poses far fewer and less severe side effects than many prescription drugs," Capecchi said. "Researchers have found that the use of highly addictive and potentially lethal opiate-based pain killers has decreased significantly in states that allow patients to use medical marijuana in the treatment of severe pain. It is simply a safer alternative."
Minnesota is one of 23 states (plus the District of Columbia) to adopt laws that allow seriously ill people to access medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it.
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Minnesotans for Compassionate Care (MCC) is a coalition of organizations, medical professionals, patients, and concerned citizens working to protect people with cancer, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, and other serious illnesses from arrest and imprisonment for using medical marijuana with their physicians' advice. For more information visit http://www.MNcares.org.