Traditionally, Minnesota is one of the most conservative US states when it comes to marijuana laws. The recreational use of marijuana is illegal as of this writing, though the possession of small amounts has been decriminalized back in 1976.
Medical marijuana in Minnesota has been legal since May 2014, when Governor Mike Dayton signed a bill legalizing the use of marijuana for the treatment of debilitating and terminal diseases. Registration for the medical marijuana program started in June 2015, while the distribution started the following month.
Patients in Minnesota can only obtain medical cannabis from a licensed dispensary. The plant and leaf forms of marijuana are still illegal for medical use.
According to a law passed in 1976, the possession of up to 42.5 grams of marijuana constitutes a misdemeanor and can be punished by a fine of up to $200. On the other hand, the possession of more than 42.5 grams is a felony which can be punished by up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $1,000,000. An individual found with more than 1.4 grams of marijuana inside their vehicle (excluding the trunk) can be punished by up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
While medical marijuana is legal, the state of Minnesota has one of the strictest laws regarding its use. Also, the list of qualifying diseases and conditions is among the shortest in the country. The original list included only nine diagnoses and conditions.
The diagnoses and conditions which made it on the list were: HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, cancer (with nausea, wasting, vomiting, and pain), Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), multiple sclerosis, seizure disorders, Chron’s disease, Tourette’s syndrome, glaucoma, or a terminal illness with life expectancy of less than one year. In 2016, the list was expanded to include intractable pain, while PTSD, obstructive sleep apnea, and autism were added in August 2017.
Regarding terminal patients with less than one year of life expectancy, medical marijuana can be recommended in cases where the disease or treatment cause cachexia, severe vomiting, severe wasting, or chronic pain.
To become eligible to use medical marijuana in Minnesota, a patient must first visit a physician willing to evaluate their eligibility. After the examination and checking the patient’s medical records, the physician will then decide if said patient qualifies for registration.
If the patient qualifies, the physician will then register them with the Minnesota Department of Health’s Medical Cannabis Patient Registry. The patient will have to provide a valid email address and a signed Patient Email Acknowledgement Form.
After the registration, the patient must wait for an email from the state’s Office of Medical Cannabis with instructions on how to complete the application for the MMJ card. The email will also provide a link to the online registration. The patient has to complete the registration within 90 days.
To complete the registration, the patient will need to enter their full legal name, address and a valid phone number, a government-issued ID proving their residence in Minnesota, a medical service ID (CHAMPVA, Supplement Security Income, Social Security Disability, Medicaid, Indian Health Service, Medical Assistance, Veteran Affairs), a credit card to pay for the $200 fee, and a Patient Self-Evaluation Report.
After filling out the form and the Patient Self-Evaluation Report, the patient will receive another confirmation email informing them that they are eligible to go to a cannabis patient center.
Cannabis Patient Center
Once the application process ends, the newly registered patient is allowed to go to a cannabis patient center where they can purchase cannabis products. A pharmacist will then review the patient’s medical records and recommend the dosage and type of cannabis product. In Minnesota, medical cannabis is only legal in pill, liquid, and vaporized form. There is no legal way to obtain medical marijuana in Minnesota outside the cannabis patient center system.
A designated caregiver or the patient’s legal guardian or caregiver could go instead of the patient. It should be noted that they will also have to be registered with the system and authorized to buy cannabis products in the patient’s name.
In order to be allowed to buy the next supply, a patient must fill out the Patient Self Evaluation Form before the visit to a cannabis patient center.
The MMJ card has to be renewed on a regular basis, and the renewal fee is the same as the initial application fee. Patients on Medicaid, MNCare, Social Security Disability, CHAMPVA, and Supplemental Security Income are eligible for reduced renewal and application fees.
While the recreational use of marijuana is illegal, qualifying patients can use and purchase medical marijuana in Minnesota. That being said, the state’s MMJ system is among the strictest and most conservative in the country. Registered patients are not able to choose the products and the amounts they use. Instead, pharmacists at the state’s cannabis patient centers decide on their behalf.
Marijuana in plant and dried form remain illegal for medical use. What’s available to patients are pills, liquid cannabis, CBD oil, and vaporized cannabis. Registered patients and their designated caregivers can’t grow marijuana on their own, nor can they legally obtain cannabis outside of the system.