FAQ on Medical Cannabis in Minnesota

What is Minnesota’s new policy regarding medical cannabis?

Legislation passed during the 2014 Minnesota legislative session creates a new process allowing seriously ill Minnesotans to acquire and use medical cannabis to treat certain conditions. A full copy of the legislation can be found online at Minnesota Session Laws CHAPTER 311--S.F.No. 2470. Governor Mark Dayton signed the bill into law in May 2014, and the medical cannabis program will be implemented by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) between May 2014 and July 2015. The law requires Minnesota residents with one or more of the qualifying conditions to join a patient registry that will be established by the state.

When can Minnesotans start applying to join the medical cannabis patient registry?

Minnesota residents will be able to apply for placement in a patient registry following conclusion of a rule-writing process and the submission of a report on the design and implementation of the registry program. The deadline for submitting the implementation report is February 1, 2015, meaning the patient application process would start at some point after that date in 2015.

When will medical cannabis become available?

The Commissioner will require selected manufacturers to supply medical cannabis products to patients by July 1, 2015. The legislation provides for a six-month extension of this deadline if the state encounters delays in selecting a manufacturer, or if the manufacturer encounters delays in production of medical cannabis products.

Who will be able to use medical cannabis?

Medical cannabis will be available to Minnesota residents whose health care provider certifies them to be suffering from conditions including:

  • Cancer associated with severe/chronic pain, nausea or severe vomiting, or cachexia or severe wasting;
  • Glaucoma;
  • Tourette’s Syndrome;
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS);
  • Seizures, including those characteristic of epilepsy;
  • Severe and persistent muscle spasms, including those characteristic of multiple sclerosis;
  • Crohn’s Disease; and
  • Terminal illness, with a life expectancy of less than one year, if the illness or treatment produces severe/chronic pain, nausea or severe vomiting, cachexia or severe wasting.

The bill directs the Commissioner of Health to consider the addition of other conditions, particularly intractable pain (as defined in statute) by July 1, 2016.

Will people in bordering states be eligible to participate in the program?

Consistent with federal oversight of interstate commerce, Minnesota’s legislation restricts program eligibility to Minnesota residents and Minnesota-licensed health care practitioners.

How will the process work?

STEP 1: Minnesotans seeking to use medical cannabis to treat one of the qualified medical conditions receive certification of their condition from a Minnesota-licensed health care practitioner (a doctor, physician assistant or advanced practice nurse who is providing care to the patient) and submit an application to the Minnesota Department of Health.
STEP 2: After receipt of the application, the Commissioner of Health enrolls the patient in the registry program and issues a registry verification.
STEP 3: Starting in July 2015, Minnesotans issued a registry verification will be eligible to receive medical cannabis for their condition at one of the eight distribution facilities set up around the state by the state-approved medical cannabis manufacturers. Registered patients will pay a fee to help cover program costs.

How much will patients pay to participate in the program?

Most registered patients will pay an annual fee of $200 to participate in the program. There is a reduced annual fee of $50 for Minnesotans receiving Social Security disability, Supplemental Security Insurance payments or enrolled in medical assistance or MinnesotaCare. Patients will also pay a yet-to-be-determined price for medical cannabis products provided by the manufacturer.

How can children or incapacitated patients get on the patient registry?

The Commissioner of Health can approve and register a designated caregiver for a patient if the patient’s health care provider certifies that the patient is unable to self-administer medication.

On what grounds might a registry application be denied?

Applications will be denied only under specific circumstances, such as an applicant providing false information or an applicant lacking certification that he or she has one of the qualifying medical conditions.

Where will the state get the medical cannabis?

The medical cannabis provided to patients in the registry will come from two in-state manufacturers licensed by the state, unless the state determines by August 2014, that it can obtain an adequate supply of federally sourced medical cannabis products.

How will the state select medical cannabis manufacturers?

To become registered manufacturers of medical cannabis, entities must apply to the Commissioner of Health for consideration. The Commissioner will assess applications using several factors, including: technical expertise in growing cannabis and in making medicine in acceptable forms, qualifications of employees, financial condition, security precautions, and projected fees to patients. 

When will the state begin soliciting bids from entities seeking to become an approved medical cannabis manufacturer?

The state will begin soliciting bids for medical cannabis manufacturers in late summer or fall of 2014.

Where will the medical cannabis distribution centers be located?

Each of the two registered manufacturers will establish and operate four distribution facilities around the state, for a total of eight. These facilities will be located based on geographical need and to improve patient access. No specific locations have been identified yet, and the process of selecting the locations will require input from the selected manufacturers.

How will the medical cannabis be distributed?

Each registered manufacturer will establish and operate no more than four distribution facilities around the state. Facilities will be located based on geographic need and to improve patient access.

In what forms will the medical cannabis be made available to patients on the registry?

Medical cannabis will be provided to patients as a liquid, pill or vaporized delivery method that does not require the use of dried leaves or plant form. The legislation gives the Commissioner of Health the ability to add other approved forms to the program in the future.

How will the state track the effectiveness and safety of medical cannabis?

With regard to safety and security, there are a number of precautions built into the program. For example, registered manufacturers must contract with a laboratory for testing the quality and consistency of the medical cannabis products. Manufacturers’ facilities are also subject to state inspection. With regard to effectiveness, one of the most important features of the program is a process for monitoring and evaluating the health impacts experienced by patients taking medical cannabis. This information will help patients and health professionals broaden their understanding of the benefits, risks and side effects of medical cannabis.

What are the obligations of patients and health care providers participating in the state’s medical cannabis program?

As part of their certification and participation in the program, patients must agree to continue receiving treatment for their condition. Participating health care providers must agree to provide ongoing reports about the patient’s health status/condition to the Minnesota Department of Health.

Updated Monday, July 28, 2014 at 01:17PM