Lawmakers split on proposed medical cannabis expansion in Minnesota

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An expansion of Minnesota’s medical cannabis program could be on its way, but what that expansion will actually look like is unclear.

The goal of the current House bill is to cut costs and improve access. While expanding Minnesota’s medical cannabis program is a bit controversial, there are actually a few things legislators agree on.

Minnesota’s medical cannabis program currently has about 15,000 patients enrolled, but many people believe there would be a lot more if it were more accessible.

Republican Rep. Rod Hamilton says he could treat his M.S. pain with medical cannabis, but it’s unrealistic.

“I’m located down in the southwest part of the state and the closest dispensary is about two and a half hours away,” he said.

DFL Rep. Heather Edelson agrees accessibility needs to be improved.

“There’s one per congressional district right now,” she said. “Our bills sought to have two per congressional district.”

Cost is also a very big issues and it’s where the two sides split.

Hamilton and Edelson say offering a plant-based option would cut costs in half, and right now, cost is a very big obstacle for patients.

“It’s not covered by insurance. You have to pay cash and it’s simply not affordable. And to really make the program work, we have to address that affordability piece,” Edelson said.

Sen. Michelle Benson says she’s not ready for the plant-based option. She needs more information from physicians first.

“But what I need to hear from the doctors enrolling patients in this program is that they have confidence they can meet the patient needs with the materials,” she said. “And I haven’t heard that information from them, so we’re gonna go slowly with this.”

The House version of this bill does have a long way to go, but it looks like it could come up for a committee vote tomorrow.