Pubdate: Sun, 07 Dec 2014
Source: Minneapolis Star-Tribune (MN)
Copyright: 2014 Star Tribune
Author: James Eli Shiffer


Minnesota's leap into the era of legal weed began with the selection 
last week of two companies that will grow, process and sell medical 
cannabis to patients.

LeafLine Labs and Minnesota Medical Solutions proved to the state 
that they had the financial wherewithal, technical prowess and 
security procedures to do the job.

But if you want to know the details, you're out of luck.

Much of that information has been redacted from the companies' 
applications, which have been posted on the website of the state 
Department of Health. They're considered trade secrets, nonpublic 
business data or sensitive security information. Minnesota law allows 
the state to keep that information from us.

Once again, corporate secrecy rules, even when companies get 
permission to operate without competition.

Kurtis Hanna, an independent cannabis activist in Minneapolis, has 
filed numerous records requests about the state's medical marijuana 
policy. He has often received heavily redacted records in response, 
or none at all. Hanna said the public should be "really frustrated 
and upset" that they can't find out how much money these companies 
stand to earn.

"We're talking about a duopoly," Hanna said. "We've got two companies 
that are going to be anointed by the state and run businesses here 
and make a profit off individuals who are sick."

The public can find out plenty about the finances of the gas, 
electric and telephone monopolies regulated by the state Public 
Utilities Commission. But this situation is different, said Manny 
Munson-Regala, an assistant health commissioner.

"We're not contracting with manufacturers to create cannabis on 
behalf of the state of Minnesota," Munson-Regala said. "It's sort of 
a de facto license."

That's true. It's also true that the state expects to spend $2.9 
million by June 2015 setting up its medical cannabis program, 
according to the Legislature's fiscal note.

"I don't think anyone considered it was done for their [the cannabis 
companies'] benefit," Munson-Regala said. "It was done for the 
benefit of the patients they will be serving."

The applicant companies all had to open their books and their secret 
sauces to the state in order to be in the running. But they didn't 
want their information to go any further, so they asked the state to 
keep large portions under wraps under the "trade secret," "business 
data" and "security information" provisions of the state's public records law.

In its application, LeafLine Labs specified what it considered a 
trade secret, including its floor plans, which "are integral to our 
security and reveal our separate grow rooms, our lighting protocol, 
our security systems, the interrelationships between propagation 
areas, veg areas and flower areas, extraction areas, etc."

Minnesota Medical Solutions was more general, saying its 
"manufacturing and operations plan" and cultivation standard 
operating procedures "are proprietary information that combines 
intellectual property from over 20 years of hands-on regulated 
industry experience."

The state didn't go along with all of it, but still, gray blocks 
cover dozens of records that could give the public an understanding 
of what they're inviting into the state.

One of the medical cannabis bill's sponsors, Rep. Dan Schoen, DFL-St. 
Paul Park, said his main goal was to create a program that would 
succeed and "not turn into the boogeyman of reefer madness." He's 
comfortable with honoring the companies' request for secrecy because 
a committee of qualified people reviewed the applications.

In coming weeks, Munson-Regala said, the state will post loads of 
information about all of the applicant companies and how the state 
rated each one in choosing the two winners. He called it "more than 
enough information for people to chew on to their heart's content."

The prospective price range has become public. Minnesota Medical 
Solutions estimates $50 to $100 per gram, with patients using 
anywhere from 2 to 10 grams of oil each month. LeafLine puts the 
average cost at $85 per gram for "high-grade extract," and an 
estimated cost per patient of $250 to $500 per month.

Otherwise, "we are not publicly disclosing detailed financial 
forecasts or information at this time," the company said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom