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'A huge day for Minnesota': First patients pick up legal medical marijuana

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The long wait is over for those who have been fighting for the legalization of medical marijuana.

Just after midnight Wednesday, three families (pictured above) picked up the first legal doses of medical cannabis in Minnesota, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) tweeted.

"This is a huge day for Minnesota," they told the media outside of the Minnesota Medical Solutions (MinnMed) clinic in downtown Minneapolis, KARE 11's Nate Anderson tweeted.

Patrick McClellan, who suffers from debilitating muscle spasms, picked up a small vaporizer of medical marijuana early Wednesday, The Associated Press reports. Two mothers, including Kim Kelsey, picked up the medication for their children.

Kelsey told the Star Tribune she received a seven-day supply of medical cannabis pills for her 24-year-old son with the hope that it will help with his epilepsy.

Patients met with doctors at the clinic for about an hour to determine the type of prescription that would best fit their needs, reports note. They'll test the medicine for about a week, and then work with the clinic to assess if the prescription needs to be adjusted in anyway – just like any other medication, KSTP reports.

“Like with any other medication, there will be some tweaks to it. There will be some time for patients to get used to the medications, time for the doses to be correctly established,” McClellan told FOX 9.

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MinnMed became the first company to legally prescribe medical marijuana in the state of Minnesota when it opened for a few hours overnight.

"We decided we weren't going to make them an extra nine hours," MinnMed CEO Dr. Kyle Kingsley told the Star Tribune.

More patients are expected to visit MinnMed when it reopens for normal business, the paper says.

“This is not going to be an explosion here in the beginning; it’s going to be a slow, gradual ramp-up of patients,” Kingsley told the AP.

Michelle Larson, the director of the state's medical cannabis office, told MPR News she was pleased with Wednesday's opening, saying, "I thought it went really well ... To see patients picking up cannabis on July 1 was our goal and they did it, so very happy."

The other clinic that will begin dispensing the medication in Minnesota Wednesday is LeafLine Labs in Eagan. The company told BringMeTheNews that it "is eager to serve Minnesota patients, and is excited to usher in a new era of healthcare, bringing relief to those who have been suffering too long."

LeafLine Labs told BringMeTheNews that appointments Wednesday are "back-to-back," noting accommodations were also made for some last-minute appointments.

Not all patients were able to get medication from LeafLine Labs Wednesday. The company informed patients Tuesday night that epilepsy treatments wouldn't be available for patients because it didn't meet their standards, MPR News says.

Five patients with epilepsy had appointments scheduled at the clinic this week, the Star Tribune notes.

More clinics coming

MinnMed and LeafLine Labs will eventually operate four clinics each in the state. The clinics will be located in Hibbing, Moorhead, St. Cloud, St. Paul, Eden Prairie and Rochester. It could be several months before they're up and running, however.

Minnesota became the 23rd state (along with the District of Columbia) to legalize medical marijuana. Minnesota's medical marijuana program is one of the strictest in the nation – dispensaries are only allowed to sell the drug in liquid, pill or vaporized form.

As of Friday, 65 patients with one of nine qualifying conditions have registered and been approved to pick up the medication July 1. Larson told MPR News those numbers have since grown – MDH plans to release updated figures at 9 a.m. Thursday.

In the weeks leading up to the legalization of medical marijuana, qualified patients were having trouble getting certified by doctors for the program because some doctors remained “cautious” about the program so didn't register with the Office of Medical Cannabis.

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