Advocates Push for Affordable Medical Marijuana
Somewhere in the town of Otsego sits an 80,000 square foot greenhouse where Minnesota Medical Solutions grows and cultivates medicinal marijuana.
“We’re really looking to replace opioids, alcohol and tobacco with cannabis-based alternatives,” said Dr. Kyle Kingsley, the founder and CEO of the company. Minnesota Medical Solutions is one of two manufacturers in the state authorized to provide medical cannabis to patients with qualifying conditions.
“The effectiveness is really no longer in dispute,” Kingsley said. “We have some great information working with The Office of Medical Cannabis Department of Health that shows that the vast majority of people are getting a benefit with very little side effect from these medicines, so that’s very encouraging.”
High Costs Since Inception of Medical Marijuana Program
Encouraging as it may be, Dr. Kingsley says the program has been hamstrung by high costs since it started. In Minnesota, patients can only use cannabis in the form of topicals, oils for vaporization, capsules and oral solutions.
“Your average patient in Minnesota, at least at our facilities, I think spends $160 a month,” Kingsley said.
The cost is $160 a month because it’s more expensive to process the plant than it would be to let patients smoke the whole flower — which is currently outlawed here. Now, Kingsley hopes to change that during this year’s legislative session.
“It’s the single greatest thing we can do to kind of jump start the medical program in Minnesota and give people access,” Kingsley said. “Again, a third of the cost for a lot of people, and you go from having to spend $150 a month to maybe $50 a month, which is a big difference for most.”
DFL Representative Mike Freiberg of Golden Valley says he’s open to the idea of legalizing the smokable form of medical marijuana if it helps reduce patients’ costs.
“Right now, the price has been out of range for a lot of people who could potentially benefit from it,” Freiberg said. “I do want to know if there are any public health ramifications of doing that and if there are any potential adverse effects. But I guess, certainly at this point, I’m open to it.”
Critics argue that making the whole flower available to patients could help pave the way for the legalization of recreational cannabis.
Either way, Kingsley is ready to take his plan to the state capitol.
“I think that there is a good reception from both sides of the aisle and the governor’s office,” Kingsley said. “I think that this is something that people are interested in.”
Currently, more than 18,000 patients are enrolled in Minnesota’s medical marijuana program.