Medical marijuana maker puts off opening of 2 new clinics

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One of the two manufacturers of medical marijuana in Minnesota is delaying the opening of two dispensaries until next year.

Minnesota Medical Solutions, which produces its medical cannabis at a facility in Otsego, currently has dispensaries in Minneapolis and Rochester. It had planned to open two others – one in Moorhead and one in the western Twin Cities suburbs – sometime this fall.

But the company announced Wednesday it's decided to wait until next year.

“At a point where patient numbers in this new program remain modest, we need to control costs in order to keep medication prices as affordable as possible for our patients," said Dr. Kyle Kingsley, CEO of the company. "In the meantime, we appreciate the community’s support and patience.”

Kingsley added the two new clinics will be open in the spring, well ahead of the legal deadline of July 1, 2016.

The Associated Press notes the delay will be hardest on residents of western Minnesota who will face long drives to Minneapolis to buy their medication.

The other manufacturer, Cottage Grove-based LeafLine Labs, currently has one dispensary in Eagan for its patients. LeafLine will eventually have three others in – St. Paul, St. Cloud and Hibbing.

Medical marijuana became legal in Minnesota on July 1. The number of people who have registered with the state to use it has been growing slowly over the past several weeks.

As of the end of August, 699 patients had applied and have been certified by their doctors to use medical marijuana, according to the state's Office of Medical Cannabis. Of those, 395 are fully registered and able to purchase the drug.

Minnesota’s medical marijuana program is considered one of the strictest in the country. It only allows the drug to be dispensed to patients in liquid or pill form – it can't be smoked. And it can only be prescribed to treat nine qualifying conditions:

  • Cancer – if you also have severe or chronic pain, nausea, severe vomiting or severe wasting, or you have a life expectancy of 1 year or less
  • Glaucoma
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Tourette syndrome
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
  • Seizures, including those characteristic of epilepsy
  • Severe and persistent muscle spasms, including those characteristic of multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Terminal illness with a probable life expectancy of less than one year

The state Department of Health is considering whether to add "intractable pain" as another qualifying condition, and it's been gathering public opinion on the topic for the past few weeks.

A related note: MinnMed is expanding its operations to New York State.

Empire State Health Solutions, the New York branch of the Minnesota company, was one of five organizations picked by the New York Department of Health Friday to manufacture and dispense the drug under that state’s new program, which it hopes to implement in January.

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