Two years in medical cannabis draws more patients, financial losses remain

Medical cannabis in Minnesota just hit the two-year mark.

Despite lasting stigmas and high costs, the industry continues to see steady patient growth.

A year ago, Lee Meyer switched from taking 33 pills a day to three doses of medical cannabis a day for his back spasms.

“I couldn't believe in the quality difference of my life so fast,” said Meyer.

He's one of the now 2100 patients Leafline Labs sees a month.

“Two years ago today we saw zero people and 760 days later, we now care for a patient every 15 minutes in Minnesota,” said Dr. Andrew Bachman, Leafline Labs CEO.

Last August, intractable pain became a qualifying condition, causing patient enrollment to more than triple in an eight-month span, according to a quarterly report by the Minnesota Department of Health.

“Rapid growth to be sure, we've grown from 11 employees a year to over 70 Minnesotans employed at Leafline,” said Dr. Bachman.

But growth may not be coming fast enough. According to documents obtained by the Associated Press, the state's two medical cannabis providers recorded $11 million dollars in losses in two years.

Last year alone Leafline Labs lost $4.7 million. But leaders say those losses were expected.

“Our original business model was to get to a point of cash flow positive in a three-year period of time,” said Bachman. “That's why we built the facilities we did and capitalized the way we did in order to target our goal and again we're on or ahead in our plan in every aspect of the business.”

Dr. Bachman says it comes back to the care and the patients in need, like Meyer.

“There's people dying every day from opiate overdoses and drug overdoses that are prescription medications,” said Meyer. “This is an awesome alternative.”

In August, PTSD will be added as a qualifying condition. Topical treatments, like lotion, will also become available.