Medical marijuana: While some have easy access, others a long drive away

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Eight medical marijuana distribution sites will eventually open across Minnesota.

The state's Department of Health picked two manufacturers Monday, with each one laying out their location plans.

  • LeafLine Labs plans to open an initial distribution center in Eagan on July 1, 2015, with other locations in Hibbing, St. Cloud and St. Paul before July 1, 2016.
  • Minnesota Medical Solutions (MinnMed) will open four distribution sites in July, with locations in Rochester, Maple Grove, Minneapolis and Moorhead.

Here's a map of what that looks like.

While some patients who are prescribed marijuana as a treatment will now have easier, convenient legal access to the drug, others – look in southwest and west-central Minnesota, and most of the Northland – are left a long drive away from picking up a prescription.

How many patients may be eligible isn't known. The Star Tribune reports health department officials peg the initial push at 5,000, but the number could end up being significantly higher.

Here's a look at how some of those cities and their residents might be affected by the new business in town.

Moorhead

For the Solum family of Moorhead, the potential opening of a distribution facility in the northwest city means an easier chance at a normal life.

Brett Solum, who is 13 years old, has 45-100 epileptic seizures daily, The Forum reports. His parents Amber and Paul see medical marijuana as a new treatment they'd like to pursue for their son.

The family told The Forum Brett is currently a patient at Mayo Clinic in Rochester. Amber Solum told the paper a local distribution facility would mean no more trips to the clinic – which is nearly 320 miles away, essentially a five-hour drive.

Hibbing

The Iron Range city of 16,000 will be the state's only medical cannabis distribution site in the Northland.

The Duluth News Tribune reports that's a 150-mile trip for a Duluth patient who needs to pick up the drug. It's even farther if you're coming from a city such as Grand Marais.

But Assistant Health Commissioner Manny Munson-Regala said state officials will look at where patients are living, and could choose to change where the distribution centers are located, the News Tribune reports. Lawmakers could also vote to add more centers for pick-up.

The Hibbing mayor declined to comment Monday, the paper said.

St. Cloud

Mayor Dave Kleis told the St. Cloud Times multiple pot companies considered St. Cloud, which Kleis didn't consider surprising since the city is smack dab in the middle of the state.

The police chief told the paper he has minor concerns, but those are lessened by the fact that the drug won't be in leaf form.

Overall though, the city's stance on opening a distribution facility there was neutral.

Why not Duluth?

Notably missing from the list of sites is Duluth, the most populous city, by far, in the Northland.

The city council showed little interest in allowing such a site, voting 6-3 last month to put a temporary suspension on any plans for a medical marijuana facility there, WDIO reported. That moratorium lasts six months to a year, and gives city planners time to review zoning rules.

At the time of the vote, the Star Tribune said one city councilor noted Duluth's struggles with synthetic drugs in recent years, citing it as a reason to pause any potential process before it even started.

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