This post is part of an ongoing exploration into the piece of legislation introduced into the Minnesota House of Representatives by Rep. Ryan Winkler, H.F. 4632. The full bill text can be found here.
Welcome to our third deep dive into House File No. 4632, a piece of legislation that gives us a glimpse into how legal adult-use cannabis might look in Minnesota. In this article, we’re going to explore what the state’s medical program might look like after adult-use legalization passes in Minnesota. After last Sunday’s defeat for patients in the Minnesota Legislature and Wednesday’s success for the Red Lake Nation’s medical program, this week’s focus is especially topical.
Minnesota’s medical cannabis program was originally passed by the legislature back in 2014 with only oils, pills, and liquids as the obtainable form of legal cannabis. Since then, patient advocates have been pushing to expand both the number of qualifying conditions and the limited forms of cannabis allowed. Since 2016, five additional qualifying conditions have been added bringing the total number to fourteen. Patients in Minnesota still experience a number of barriers to accessing their medicine, and the program has never received above a ‘C’ grade from Americans for Safe Access.
Winkler’s bill would expand Minnesota’s existing medical program in a number of ways. One major change would be adding raw cannabis flower to the medical program that patients would be allowed to either smoke or vape. Patients would be limited to a 90-day supply of medical cannabis, but the possession limits for adult-use cannabis would not apply to medical products. Medical patients (along with adult-use consumers) would be able to have cannabis products delivered either by the dispensary itself or a 3rd party cannabis delivery service.
Maren Schroeder, Policy Director for Sensible Change Minnesota, believes that this legislation would be a major step forward for medical patients in Minnesota. Sensible Change was one of the organizations that worked with Rep. Winkler in crafting this legislation among other cannabis reform measures.
“One of the conversations that we’re having with Majority Leader Winkler’s office is the incorporation of further patient protections,” Schroeder said when asked what was missing from this legislation. HF 4310, another piece of cannabis legislation, (also worked on by Sensible Change) introduced this session by Rep. Gomez, includes some of those protections. If passed, it would have allowed patients who previously were removed from the program to apply one year after being removed for re-approval (currently they cannot ever re-apply). It also would ban schools, landlords, and health care facilities from retaliating against medical patients simply for being on the registry while providing a criminal affirmative defense for patients if charged with possession of marijuana. Many other states with both medical and adult-use programs already have those protections implemented.
One issue that has arisen in past states that have transitioned from medical to adult-use is patients having issues obtaining medical cannabis. “I think the bill does enough in terms of making sure that the patients have the priority [over adult-use] for their medicine. That’s the most important piece,” Schroeder explained. Further, “If we’re to separate medical from recreational entirely, then we’re not going to get the benefit of price reduction that comes along with a recreational market.”
Those looking to get involved with Sensible Change Minnesota to help with the upcoming election and drug reform generally should reach out to Maren directly. Sensible Change is looking to expand its core team with individuals to help gear up for the upcoming election. Those with board experience, advocacy experience, and technology backgrounds should reach out now as they prepare for a larger push this upcoming November.
Learn more about Sensible Change Minnesota at changemn.org