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Minnesota Patients Find Medical Marijuana Program Restrictive

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The cost of medical marijuana products in Minnesota remains high. The cost makes it hard for some patients to afford their medicine. Some patients are also having a hard time finding a doctor that will recommend medical marijuana for them.

Some providers are on-board with patients saying that the products are too expensive, according to the Grand Forks Herald. Some patients are traveling far beyond their local areas to find a prescribing doctor. One patient reports traveling from Duluth to the Twin Cities.

Dr. Tom Arneson of the Department of Health’s Office of Medical Cannabis commented that the state can’t provide what doctors are part of the state’s registry. Health Commissioner Jan Malcom seemed surprised by this.

Malcom said, “That’s a new one to me, that we don’t do that.”

Patients can receive recommendations or prescriptions from some doctors at some hospitals, such as oncologists at St. Luke’s. Dr. Gary Peterson said that even though oncologists are on the registry, it doesn’t mean they’ll certify every patient.

Dr. Peterson said, “I would think that each individual cancer patient…would be evaluated individually as to the appropriateness of medical marijuana. We wouldn’t expect that to be the first-line treatment.”

Each individual practitioner makes the decision whether to certify a patient or not.

At Essentia Health, where Dr. Jeffrey Lyon practices, urges practitioners to use evidence-supported treatments before they consider recommending medical marijuana for a patient. This healthcare center requires a committee approval to complete a medical marijuana certification to ensure that the proper steps have been taken by its rules.

Arneson noted that he could sense a patient’s frustration that came from the Duluth area.

He said, “We get complaints about not being able to find (a practitioner) to certify a patient from all over the state, don’t get me wrong. But we have received a number from the northeastern part of the stat with specific complaints about organizations.”

Dr. Arneson says that the cost of the medication may also be a factor. He said, “Most people can’t afford this program. That’s just the reality of it. So it depends a little bit on the distribution of income, I would say.”

Dr. Adam Locketz says that the average cost per month for a patient is around $150. His clinic, TimeWise Clinic, is open to certify patients in Lake Elmo and Duluth. Locketz has personally certified over 2,000 patients himself. The cost of certification is another expense that patients have a hard time with, as Locketz charges $250 for the initial visit and lower rates for additional visits. The state fee is $200 initially and $50 per year for renewal.

Dr. Lyon said, “The state has created this system, and they’re not seeing the number of people buying their product that they had hoped for.”

At the end of March, the state reported having 9,435 registered, active patients. Nearly two-thirds of those registered qualify under intractable pain.