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Medicinal Cannabis Flower Sales Begin In Minnesota

Sales of medicinal cannabis flower began in Minnesota on Monday, giving the state’s medical marijuana patients a new and more affordable option to access their medicine of choice. The Minnesota Department of Health announced in February that cannabis flower would be added to the state’s medical marijuana program, which until this week only permitted patients to use processed cannabis products such as extracts, distillates, capsules, and topicals.

Chris Tholkes, the director of Minnesota’s Office of Medical Cannabis, said that the addition of cannabis flower was made primarily to make medical marijuana products more affordable for patients. These products are typically more expensive than dry and cured cannabis flower because they include manufacturing costs. Regulations expect that the introduction of medical marijuana flower will lead to an increase in patients registered.

“It gives patients a much more affordable access point to the medicine that cannabis provides,” said Dr. Kyle Kingsley, the CEO of Vireo Health of Minnesota. “Many patients switching from our more standard products to flower will be able to save about 50 percent on a monthly basis to treat their various medical conditions.”

Patricia Gates was the first person to order cannabis flower from the Green Goods dispensary in Minneapolis. The new option was much cheaper, she said. This will have a significant impact on her monthly finances.

“So this is going to save me probably upwards of 400 or more,” Gates told local media. “So I see this as a huge blessing … huge blessing!”

Gates was diagnosed with Ramsy Hunt Syndrome in 2017. This condition causes severe pain, and half her face has been paralyzed. She was currently taking 18 prescriptions daily before she began treatment with medicinal cannabis oil. Cannabis is much more effective, but a full month’s supply cost $800, an amount unaffordable for Gates. She often ended up having to live with less.

“This particular chemical has literally saved my life every day since June of 2019 when I was certified on the registry,” said Gates.

“This is really exciting for cannabis patients,” she added. “I’m not even kidding—this is, like, huge!”

Minnesota’s Patient Roster to Spike

The health department stated last month, based on experience from other states that have legalized cannabis, it expected patient enrollment to the program’s medical marijuana program to double, or triple, based on its observations. In a survey conducted in October 2021, 71% of patients registered with the health department indicated that they are very or somewhat inclined to use smokable marijuana flower.

“We did a price point study in 2019, and the average cost for a patient in a month is a little over $300,” said Tholkes. “I think we’re going to see a very sharp increase now that we have lowered the cost for folks.”

The new regulations will allow medical dispensaries to offer dried, pre-packaged cannabis flowers and pre-rolled joints. They can sell a wide range of strains and cannabinoid levels. A registered patient can purchase up to a full 90 day supply of cannabis. Patients must consult with a doctor before they can purchase cannabis flower. To satisfy this requirement, patients have two options: in-person consultations or virtual ones.

“In preparation for the change, registered patients interested in smokable cannabis can make an appointment for a consultation with a medical cannabis dispensary pharmacist beginning February 1, so they will be pre-approved to buy pre-packaged dried flower and pre-rolls once available,” the department of health wrote in its statement from last month’s announcement of the change. 

Smokable cannabis flower will only be available to patients and caregivers aged 21 and older who are registered with the state’s medical cannabis program. Jan Malcolm, Minnesota Commissioner of Health, advised patients considering using cannabis flowers to get the guidance of a healthcare professional before they make the switch.

“Patients need to weigh the risks of smoking medical cannabis, including those related to secondhand smoke and lung health, with any potential benefits,” said Malcolm. “Smokable cannabis may not be right for everyone; patients should have a conversation with their health care practitioner for guidance.”

Last month, the Minnesota Department of Health announced that patients with medical conditions will be able to access a new alternative later in the year. They will now have an option for edible cannabis products such as chews and gummies. The MDH conducts an annual consultation and petition to obtain public feedback on possible additions and modifications to the regulations.