Minnesota medical marijuana program to take off in mid-2015

Minnesota’s medical marijuana program is on the conservative side.

In the summer of 2014, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton signed a bill legalizing the use of medical marijuana in the state – as already had almost half the states and the District of Columbia at the time.

State medical marijuana laws vary widely among the states in how tightly they control access to the drug. Minnesota’s law is among the more conservative. Chiefly, Minnesota only will allow medical marijuana in vapor, pill or liquid form. Gov. Mark Dayton has come out adamantly against the inclusion of marijuana in leaf form.

The law allows two state-sanctioned companies to produce and distribute medical marijuana. Each will have four dispensaries across the state. In December 2014, the Minnesota Department of Health’s choices were announced: Minnesota Medical Solutions or MinnMed, and LeafLine Labs, a company with close connections to the long-time Minnesota floral company Bachman’s.

According to the MDH website’s pages on Minnesota medical cannabis, medical marijuana will not be distributed through doctors’ prescriptions. Rather, patients who are medically certified as having certain severe medical conditions may apply to be put into a state registry of those allowed to purchase the drug at one of the state’s eight dispensaries (expected to open in July 2015).

The law allows patients who have any of the following medical conditions to apply for inclusion in the registry:

  • Cancer with severe or chronic pain, nausea, vomiting or wasting
  • Glaucoma
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Tourette’s syndrome
  • ALS
  • Seizures
  • Severe muscle spasms, including those from multiple sclerosis
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Terminal illness expected to cause death within one year when symptoms or treatment produces severe or chronic pain, nausea, vomiting or wasting

The law requires the state Commissioner of Health to consider adding other medical conditions to the list, including “intractable pain.”

The Minnesota medical marijuana bill also creates certain marijuana-related crimes. For example, a manufacturer or its agent commits a felony if it intentionally transfers medical cannabis to anyone other than a registered patient (or the patient’s designated caregiver, parent or guardian). A conviction would be punishable by up to two years in prison, a fine up to $3,000 or both.

A similar crime would be committed by transfer by a patient (or caregiver, parent or guardian) to anyone other than a patient (or caregiver, parent or guardian.) Certain other related actions are also designated as criminal.

Therefore, anyone involved in the Minnesota medical cannabis program must take care not to violate the law and if under investigation or charged with such a crime, should immediately contact an experienced criminal defense attorney for assistance.

In addition to the growing number of states legalizing medical marijuana, the media has also focused on Colorado and Washington, the two states that have decriminalized possession for personal use of very small amounts. There is much speculation that the accelerating speed of medical legalization and now the beginning of recreational legalization will continue to grow across the country.

It will be interesting to see how quickly other states will legalize small amounts of recreational pot and whether the other roughly half of the states will move toward legalizing medical cannabis. Considering Minnesota’s relatively conservative medical marijuana law, it may be a slow process in the state.

In the meantime, anyone in Minnesota accused of a marijuana-related crime should immediately seek the assistance of a criminal defense lawyer with drug crime experience because criminal sanctions are still serious in the state for most drug crimes. A knowledgeable defense attorney from Villaume & Schiek, P.A., in Bloomington can provide just such professional service.

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