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Smokable Medical Cannabis Coming to Minnesota in March

According to state regulators, medical cannabis patients will be able to purchase smokable cannabis flowers from licensed sellers in Minnesota starting next month. The Minnesota Department of Health said in a statement on Tuesday that the state’s medical cannabis dispensaries will be able to offer dried cannabis flower on March 1.

Pre-packaged cannabis flowers and pre-rolled joints will be available at dispensaries. They can offer a wide range of varieties and cannabinoid levels. Patients who are registered will have the ability to buy up to 90 days worth of cannabis. The state had previously restricted patients’ access to processed cannabis products like extracts, capsules and topicals.

It won’t be as easy as visiting a dispensary and picking out a favorite strain of bud, however. Under Minnesota’s medical cannabis regulations, patients must first complete a consultation with a medical cannabis dispensary pharmacist to change the type of medical marijuana they receive. 

“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 Feb. 1 so they will be pre-approved to buy pre-packaged dried flower and pre-rolls once available,” the health department wrote in its statement. The requirement can be satisfied by patients either through in-person, or via virtual consultations.

Smokable cannabis flower will only be available to patients and caregivers ages 21 and older who are registered with the state’s medical cannabis program. Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm urged patients who are considering switching to cannabis flower to seek the advice of a health care professional before making the change.

“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.”

Officials Are Expecting a Spike in Minnesota’s Medical Cannabis Patient Population

Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), predicts that there will be an increase in registered patients who use medical cannabis. In a poll of patients, the MDH cites an October 2021 study in which 71% of those surveyed said they are very or somewhat inclined to use smokable cannabis flowers if made available.

In a statement, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws NORML noted that Minnesota has legalized medical marijuana but does not permit herbal cannabis. It reiterated its belief that all medical marijuana patients should have the right to use cannabis flower.

“Limiting patients’ options to extracted oral formulations is not in their best interests,” NORML wrote. “Herbal cannabis contains more than 100 distinct cannabinoids (unique physiologically active components in the plant), many of which act synergistically with one another.”

A bill that was passed last year by legislators made it possible to include cannabis flower in the new medical marijuana products for patients in Minnesota. Bipartisan supporters of the legislation claimed that certain patients were not able to afford the allowed products. 

“It will make this more economically viable and more accessible to families,” Republican Senator Michelle Benson said at the time.

The legislation passed last year was the most substantive change to Minnesota’s medical cannabis program since it launched in 2014. The measure also added Crohn’s disease, some cancers, HIV, seizures and intractable pain as qualifying medical conditions to participate in the program.

MDH added that this August, edible cannabis products such as chews and gummies will become more readily available for patients. This change was implemented last year in an annual comment and petition process used by the MDH to seek public feedback on possible additions to qualified medical conditions or cannabis delivery methods.