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MN Among States Struggling with Medical-Marijuana Oversight

At the end of 2019, state health officials say Minnesota's medical marijuana program had more than 18,000 patients. (Thomas Hawk/Flickr)
At the end of 2019, state health officials say Minnesota's medical marijuana program had more than 18,000 patients. (Thomas Hawk/Flickr)
January 21, 2020

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Health Department says it's taking steps to improve oversight of the state's medical marijuana program. That's after an audit found multiple failures.

The Office of the Legislative Auditor issued a report this month saying, among other things, the health department had poor record-keeping for parent and guardian eligibility. It also said regulators didn't verify all new patients' doctors were licensed and in good standing.

Morgan Fox of the National Cannabis Industry Association said these kinds of problems are counter-productive, especially for a program that's already limited.

"There are extreme license caps in place that prevent the industry from really flourishing and having good competition," Fox said.

Since it was approved in 2014, Minnesota has had one of the more restrictive medical marijuana programs in the country. However, an expansion will take effect this year - including in the number of access points for medication.

Meanwhile, health officials say they agree with the findings and are implementing fixes. In 2018, the state of Oregon reported similar oversight problems for its program.

Fox said when a state encounters challenges or success with cannabis programs, other states should take notice while developing their own oversight plans - especially as there are more potential law changes on the horizon for 2020.

"This year, we should expect to see legislation passed in at least one if not more states passing medical cannabis laws, as well as the potential for more states passing adult-use laws," he said.

In Minnesota, there's support from Democrats in the House and Gov. Tim Walz for legalization of marijuana for recreational use. But the idea faces opposition from Senate Republicans. Nearly a dozen states already have passed such laws, and 33 states have approved medical-marijuana programs.

Mike Moen, Public News Service - MN