The state of Minnesota launches its medical marijuana program today, but unlike the more than 20 other states with similar systems in place, patients will only be allowed to consume the herb by way of pills and oils. Smoking cannabis remains strictly prohibited under state law.
Patients will now finally get a chance to take advantage of what is, perhaps, one of the most bizarre medical marijuana programs in the United States. Those suffering from nine specific conditions like cancer and AIDS will be given access to cannabis pills and oils, but they will only be able to secure it from just eight locations throughout the state.
Some worry that the ultra-restrictive nature of the program will create hardships for patients living in rural areas, as well as those without the means to travel long distances. Local cannabis advocates say the regulations attached to the program are just the beginning to developing a more comprehensive version in the future.
“The door is opening,” Bob Cappechi of the Marijuana Policy Project told The Associated Press. “This will start helping people out. That’s really what this is all about.”
Even the two companies responsible for producing cannabis products for Minnesota’s patients agree that the state’s approach to taking this treatment mainstream is oddly unique. They say that because the medical marijuana industry as a whole does not operate in this manner, it presents challenges, all the way around, because every aspect from seed to sale is new.
However, the real problem is getting patients registered and physicians to play ball.
As of last week, only 41 of the 65 patients certified to participate in the program had been given access. Many believe it’s the difficulty of the enrollment process that has contributed to such a low turnout across the board. Others complain that finding a physician willing to write a recommendation is what’s holding the program back.
A recent survey of 14,000 doctors in Minnesota found that nearly 70 percent of these professionals had no plans of participating in medical marijuana, while only about 9 percent said they would. The state’s program mandates that patients first complete the registration and then get their doctor to sign off on their qualified condition.
Unfortunately, nearly 20 percent of the doctors polled said they plan to take a wait-and-see approach to advising their patients on the use of medical marijuana.
Do you think qualified patients should have the option to smoke cannabis to treat their conditions? Share your thoughts in the comments.