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Will a surge of new users take some pain out of medical marijuana prices?

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Minnesotans whose ongoing pain does not respond to other treatments can now try medical marijuana – if their doctor gives them the OK ... and they can afford it.

Monday was the first day that patients diagnosed with intractable pain could buy medical cannabis at one of the state's eight centers that sell marijuana.

Minnesota's health commissioner announced in December that pain would be added to the nine other conditions that qualify for treatment with cannabis.

Since no insurance companies cover medical marijuana, the cost to patients can be several hundred dollars per month. That's something the Health Department acknowledged when it announced that more people signed up for the state's medical cannabis program in July than in any other month since it started last summer.

Provider offers discounts

Minnesota Medical Solutions, one of the two companies approved to supply marijuana in Minnesota, announced Monday that it's offering a 20 percent discount on the first purchase by any newly approved patient trying cannabis to treat pain.

Their CEO, Dr. Kyle Kingsley, says the company wants to ease the financial burden for patients so they can see if marijuana helps their pain. The discounts are available through the end of the year at their centers in Bloomington, Minneapolis, Moorhead, and Rochester. (Minnesota's four other centers are run by LeafLine Labs.)

Minnesota Medical Solutions also says it has developed a first-of-its-kind plan to help patients transition from potentially addictive opioid painkillers to cannabis-based medicine.

Will the addition of patients with intractable pain bring down the out-of-pocket costs that are seen as the biggest drawback in Minnesota's program?

We'll see, but the Associated Press reports the new influx of patients – nearly 500 signed up in July – has raised hopes among patients and manufacturers that the additional demand will eventually bring down prices.

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