Pubdate: Sat, 01 Aug 2015
Source: Minneapolis Star-Tribune (MN)
Copyright: 2015 Star Tribune
Author: Jennifer Brooks


Patients Struggle to Find Doctors Willing to Help.

One month after legalization, there are still more doctors than 
patients enrolled in Minnesota's medical marijuana program. As of 
Friday morning, there were 250 patients and 334 health care 
practitioners enrolled in the Health Department's Office of Medical Cannabis.

Even so, patients eligible for the program have struggled to find 
doctors willing to help them enroll. Those who do make it into the 
program are facing rising prices for a medication that's not covered 
by any insurance.

"Guess banging my head against the wall will not move the wall," said 
Duane Bandel, who has AIDS - one of nine conditions the law says 
entitles him to try medical cannabis - but has been unable to get his 
doctors to fill out the paperwork for the state.

Minnesota law gives physicians and clinics the option of opting out. 
Unless patients can find a primary caregiver to confirm that they 
have a qualifying condition, they cannot enroll in the program. 
Bandel said his clinic, which has been treating him since his 
diagnosis in 2002, is not currently certifying patients, although it 
may reconsider that decision sometime next year.

"Too bad I spent all that time trying to get this law to work for all 
Minnesotans, since it isn't working for me," said a frustrated 
Bandel, who lobbied hard for medical cannabis legalization. He sits 
on the state's Task Force on Medical Cannabis Therapeutic Research.

The first month in business has meant adjustment for the two 
companies that are growing and selling the state's entire medical 
marijuana crop. At Minnesota Medical Solutions, CEO Kyle Kingsley 
announced price hikes - 15 percent to 20 percent, depending on the 
product - as the company saw larger-than-expected numbers of 
low-income patients, who receive a discount on their cannabis prescriptions.

On Friday, a second of Kingsley's companies, Empire State Health 
Solutions, was selected to be one of five cannabis providers for New 
York's new medical marijuana program.

Kinglsey said he hopes that as the program expands and more patients 
enroll, prices will drop again. The company will be modifying its 
prices, which average between $200 and $400 for a month's supply of 
cannabis oil, pills or tinctures, on a quarterly basis, he said.

"It is imperative that we find a way to bring costs down," Kingsley 
said. "Obviously, I've lost some sleep over the price increase, but 
we are still beyond competitive here in Minnesota."

The state's other manufacturer, LeafLine Labs, had to pull its entire 
stock of epilepsy medication just before the program launched on July 
1, forcing many of those patients to turn to MinnMed for the first 
three weeks of the program until LeafLine could reformulate.

LeafLine CEO Manny MunsonRegala, who moved from overseeing the 
cannabis program at the Health Department to running one of the 
state's two marijuana manufacturers, said the supply of epilepsy 
medication has been restored. LeafLine has no plans to raise its 
prices now, he said.

The state's first two medical marijuana clinics opened in Minneapolis 
and Eagan on July 1. Since then, MinnMed opened a second clinic in 
Rochester and plans to open its third storefront in Moorhead later 
this summer. MinnMed's final clinic will open in the western suburbs 
at a later date.

LeafLine plans to open its second clinic in St. Cloud in October and 
two more in St. Paul and Hibbing next year. Munson-Regala said 
finding a St. Paul location has been particularly tricky, since state 
law bans the dispensaries from operating within 1,000 feet of a 
school or day care, and St. Paul has an abundance of both.

Minnesota's medical marijuana program is one of the most restrictive 
in the nation. By law, cannabis is available only to patients with a 
handful of serious medical conditions and can be sold only as pills 
or liquids - not in its smokable plant form - from one of eight 
retail outlets scattered across the state.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom