Pubdate: Fri, 28 Nov 2014
Source: Minneapolis Star-Tribune (MN)
Copyright: 2014 Star Tribune
Author: Jennifer Brooks


The State Will Reveal Two Suppliers on Monday.

Next week, the Minnesota Department of Health will name the two 
companies it has selected to grow and refine the state's entire 
supply of medical marijuana.

While some communities are ready to welcome new agribusinesses, 
others have taken steps to block marijuana outlets from setting up shop.

The city of Duluth, which spent years battling a downtown head shop, 
just passed a six-to 12-month moratorium on any talk of zoning for 
medical marijuana manufacturing or dispensing facilities. The 
Minneapolis suburb of Richfield passed a similar moratorium in 
October after two different cannabis companies approached the city 
about setting up dispensaries there, should they get the nod from the state.

"From our perspective, what's really important is to get ahead of the 
game and figure out how, or where, those facilities might fit into 
our community," City Manager Steve Devich said at the time.

But other communities, including Cottage Grove and Willmar, have 
already greenlighted potential marijuana operations. And patients and 
their families say they'll travel as long or as far as it takes to 
get access to their medicine, once it becomes legal next summer.

Kristy Kargel is counting the days until she can legally buy medical 
marijuana for her 9-year-old daughter, Emily. The girl suffers from a 
severe seizure disorder that has resisted surgery, special diets and 
at least 24 other types of drugs. Cannabis oil has dramatically 
reduced seizures for other children with epilepsy, and Kargel is 
hoping for the same miraculous results for Emily.

"July 1 can't get here soon enough," said Kargel, who lives in 
Stillwater. "I am willing to drive. If it's six hours, I will drive 
six hours to get her medication."

When July 1 rolls around, many Minnesotans will barely notice that 
their state has joined with 22 others to legalize medical marijuana. 
There may be only two distribution sites in the entire state by then, 
and they'll be located in communities that welcomed them.

"It's going to look more like going to a clinic than it feels like 
going to a head shop" when people visit these dispensaries, which 
will include onsite pharmacists to fill every prescription, said 
Assistant Health Commissioner Manny Munson-Regala. "It'll be much 
more of a consultative, patientcentered exercise, rather than a 
retail facility where people are trying to sell you stuff." A narrow law

Minnesota passed one of the most tightly regulated, narrowly focused 
medical marijuana laws in the country. The state limits the number of 
dispensaries in the entire state to just eight - four per 
manufacturing operation, scattered throughout the state. The state 
also limits the number of conditions that can legally be treated with 
the drug - qualifying conditions include certain cancers, seizure 
disorders, glaucoma and terminal illnesses.

Minnesota will also ban the drug from being sold in its raw plant 
form. The two manufacturers announced Monday will have to process the 
cannabis into oils, pills and other non-smokable forms.

Like any other business, communities have the option of deciding 
whether they want to zone it into town, Munson-Regala said. While 
some communities put on the brakes, others saw a business opportunity.

While Duluth has hit pause on the medical marijuana debate, the 
neighboring town of Proctor, 8 miles away, approved zoning for a 
marijuana manufacturing facility in town after it was approached by 
two different companies.

Marijuana is a fledgling industry - and one that's still illegal on 
the federal level and in more than half of U.S. states. But as more 
states legalize the drug for medical use and debate full 
legalization, one industry trade publication, Marijuana Business 
Daily, estimates that legal cannabis could bring in $4.5 billion to 
$6 billion nationwide by 2018.

The state of Michigan, where 120,000 patients were approved to buy 
medical marijuana last year, estimated that it made $10.9 million in 
revenue from application fees in 2013.

A dozen companies applied - and put down $20,000 non-refundable 
application fees - to become one of the two medical marijuana 
manufacturers. The state has not yet revealed the names of the 
applicants, and their identities are just another of the unanswered 
questions dogging Minnesota's fledgling medical marijuana program. 
It's not yet known how many patients will apply for the program, or 
how much the marijuana will cost.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom