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Minnesota now taking applications for medical cannabis manufacturers

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You now have 29 days to apply for a position as one of Minnesota's medical cannabis producers.

The Minnesota Department of Health began accepting applications Friday from those hoping to be one of the state's two expected medical marijuana manufacturers. The application period runs until Oct. 3, and requires interested parties to send in a "Request for Applications" – a lengthy document in which potential manufacturers must provide detailed plans about how they would grow, cultivate, transport, and even market the product.

An initial draft of the RFA can be seen here. (The official RFA is expected to appear on the department's website later Friday.)

On top of the phone book's-worth of information needed to apply is a hefty cost.

Simply applying requires a non-refundable $20,000 application fee, as outlined in the application Q&A. Then the two manufacturers selected will be on the hook for an annual fee to cover the costs of the state monitoring the program, which could range from $75,000-$100,000.

There are also, as the Pioneer Press noted, investments that will need to be made in facilities, machinery, and the process of turning the plant into a legal medicine (since the law does not allow the plant to be smoked in leaf form, but rather ingested as a pill or oil). Two interested parties told the paper start-up costs could approach $10 million.

So who is interested?

Well, last month, a meeting for interested manufacturers drew more than 220 people.

The Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal reports one or more of the owners of Bachman's Inc., well known for its metro-area nurseries, is interested, but a company spokesperson tells the publication that the family's expansion into the medical marijuana business will be separate from the traditional Bachman's company. The Business Journal also talks to a few other companies about whether they plan to apply, and also details the challenges of doing so.

The state's commissioner of health has until Dec. 1 to name two in-state manufacturers, but can request a six-month extension if selecting them proves difficult. Each manufacturer will operate four distribution sites in Minnesota (making eight total), with the state split into two sections. Those must be in place by July 1, 2016, precisely one year after medical cannabis is expected to legally be available to patients.

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