Pubdate: Wed, 04 May 2016
Source: Minneapolis Star-Tribune (MN)
Copyright: 2016 Star Tribune
Author: Jennifer Brooks


It Will Be State's Fourth Dispensary; Four More Must Open by July 1.

The city of Bloomington, which once issued a one-year moratorium on 
medical marijuana, has opened its doors to the state's next dispensary.

The City Council this week approved plans to open a medical cannabis 
care center by midsummer. The unanimous vote came after the city 
spent a year watching how Minnesota's fledgling medical marijuana 
program was working in other communities.

"When they said they put in the moratorium to study the issue, that 
is indeed what they were doing," said Dr. Kyle Kingsley, CEO of 
Minnesota Medical Solutions, one of the state's two medical cannabis 

MinnMed already operates storefronts in Minneapolis and Rochester and 
will be opening a fourth dispensary in Moorhead within a few months. 
By state law, the two companies that the Minnesota Health Department 
tapped to grow, refine and sell the state's entire marijuana crop 
must have eight dispensaries open by July 1. Right now there are three.

"We anticipate that Bloomington will, in short order, be our busiest 
patient center," Kingsley said.

The site is just 12 miles from the company's downtown Minneapolis 
dispensary, but it could allow patients to skip downtown traffic. 
Dozens of patients already drive from Bloomington to the Minneapolis 
clinic every month, Kingsley said.

Minnesota's medical marijuana program is less than a year old and is 
one of the most restrictive in the country. To get a prescription for 
cannabis, patients must get their primary care provider to certify 
that they have one of nine specified debilitating illnesses, which 
range from cancer to epilepsy to AIDS.

Patients who qualify for the program also have to pay out of pocket 
for their medication, since no insurance company will cover the cost 
of a drug that the federal government says is illegal and has no 
recognized medical use. Even when all eight clinics are open, many 
areas of outstate Minnesota will be hundreds of miles from the 
nearest dispensary.

Even so, the number of patients enrolled with the Office of Medical 
Cannabis has slowly increased. As of Friday, 1,304 Minnesotans were 
in the program - a number that is likely to increase in August, when 
the program expands to serve patients suffering from intractable pain.

Twenty-four states have medical marijuana programs, and for many of 
them, pain patients make up the bulk of their customers. Kinglsey 
said MinnMed sees 25 to 30 new patients per week. He expects a 
"modest" increase to perhaps 40 patients per week after the August expansion.

The average patient in Minnesota drives 46 miles to reach a cannabis 
clinic, according to an April survey by the health department. Right 
now, the only clinics are in Minneapolis, Rochester and Eagan. 
MinnMed and its rival LeafLine Labs have two months to open their 
remaining clinics in Bloomington, Moorhead, St. Cloud, St. Paul and Hibbing.

Bloomington Planning Manager Glen Markegard said city officials 
toured MinnMed's Minneapolis facility and studied what had happened 
in other communities with cannabis dispensaries before signing off on 
the zoning request. The Minneapolis clinic "was very much like a 
standard pharmacy, not anything too different," he said.

In Minnesota, medical marijuana is dispensed by a pharmacist and can 
only be sold as pills or liquids, not in the smokable plant form.

Minnesota's eight dispensaries will be located in each of its eight 
congressional districts. MinnMed had been eyeing Eden Prairie for its 
storefront in the western suburbs. In the end, Kingsley said the 
company chose a site in a Bloomington strip mall, 5200 84th St. W., 
that sits close to nearby freeways like I-495 and I-35W.

"We chose the Bloomington site because we feel it's the most 
patient-accessible site in the Third Congressional District," he said.

For more information about Minnesota's medical marijuana program, 
visit the Office of Medical Cannabis at
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom