Legal supply in question as marijuana bill moves forward

A couple of token changes in Minnesota’s new marijuana bills are highlighting concerns about whether a legal supply will be available when retailers launch sometime next year.

A long list of people are hoping to spark up new cannabis businesses in Minnesota.

But there’s a fog around how they get there, especially when it comes to putting legal weed behind retail counters.

"The demand for cannabis in Minnesota will be large enough to enable success at every level of the supply chain, but a minimally viable market launch with a slow or tiered issuance of licenses and an insufficient dual supply chain will put a successful program implementation at risk," Amber Shimpa, Vireo Health CEO, told FOX 9.

When Shimpa talks about the dual supply chain, she means cultivators and processors getting marijuana to market for both recreational and medical users.

Her company already supplies the medical market, but with only a small fraction of what recreational users will buy.

"There's also no guarantee that the two medical companies currently serving patients today will get a license from a random draw," said Maren Schroeder of Sensible Change Minnesota.

That’s because the Office of Cannabis Management has proposed a lottery system for licenses. They’ll vet the candidates, but budding businesses would be just as likely to win as the ones already in production.

And then there are the new qualifications for getting medical, tax-free cannabis — if there’s enough to go around.

The bill adds conditions including autism spectrum disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) to the list of those qualifying for a cannabis card.

"This is really, really concerning to me that as lawmakers, we are choosing to put this in law rather than leaving this in the hands of physicians, which is really where it should be," said Rep. Anne Neu Brindley, (R-North Branch).

There’s evidence cannabis can help some autism and OCD patients, but studies so far are pretty small. And the new bill allows doctors to recommend medical marijuana for anything they believe it could help.

The bill’s author says it still needs to list conditions eligible for medical marijuana, mainly for veterans because their doctors at federal facilities can’t recommend marijuana.