FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
St. Paul – March 22, 2019
Yesterday Republican Senator Dan Hall presented his bill SF1070, which makes changes to Minnesota’s medical cannabis program, to the Senate Health and Human Service Finance and Policy Committee.
Senator Melisa Franzen, a Democrat from Edina, offered two bill amendments to make medical cannabis more accessible and affordable for Minnesota’s patients. One amendment would have added chronic pain and opiate replacement as qualifying conditions, the other would have added vaporized raw cannabis as an allowable delivery method. Hall, the bill’s author, declined the amendments, and they were withdrawn prior to a vote.
“We are disappointed in Senator Hall’s decision to decline these amendments. Our team contacted his office prior to yesterday’s hearing to meet with us on behalf of Minnesota’s patients, but were denied a meeting. We are disappointed by his unwillingness thus far to work with us to develop real solutions to Minnesota’s medical cannabis affordability crisis,” said Maren Schroeder, President of Sensible Minnesota, a patient advocacy organization. “We hope that Senator Hall will sit down and talk with us in the near future so that we can articulate why Minnesota patients need more drastic measures than what SF1070 currently provides.”
Patients are currently paying up to four times more for medical cannabis than their counterparts in other states such as Arizona, Illinois, and Oregon. The state of Pennsylvania started their medical cannabis program in 2018, and also struggled with patient affordability. Six months after implementation, they added access to raw cannabis flower, and reduced costs for patients by over 50%.
Minnesota currently has around 15,500 patients, with over 7,000 patients who have dropped their enrollment. In comparison, Pennsylvania has over 100,000 patients, which, if adjusted for population, would equate to around 30,000 patients in Minnesota.
“The Minnesota Legislature must act urgently to put patients’ needs first. This is a bipartisan issue, which has recently been highlighted with the Florida Republican-held government having legalized smoking raw cannabis in their medical cannabis program just last week. To block measures that prioritize sick Minnesotans is not very Minnesota nice,” said Brandan Borgos, Chair and Co-Founder of Sensible Change Minnesota.
The Governor privately indicated his support for raw cannabis vaporization in the medical cannabis program to citizen lobbyist Kurtis Hanna. “In sharp contrast to former Governor Mark Dayton’s position during the whole of his administration, Governor Walz expressed to me whole-hearted support for adding raw cannabis as a delivery method to our medical cannabis program in order to finally make the program accessible to all Minnesota patients, not just the wealthy patients in our State,” said Hanna.
Minnesota Veterans for Cannabis Co-Founder Jeremy Sankey expressed his disappointment with the process, “Minnesota’s veterans deserve safe and affordable access to medical cannabis treatment for their post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain, and other debilitating conditions. They fought for us, now the legislature needs to fight for them.”
Senator Hall pointed out several times he was going to stick with his stakeholders on the bill. Senator Melisa Franzen, whose amendments would have directly and seriously addressed cost issues, told Senator Hall, “when you mention stakeholders, I think people who would benefit from the program would be stakeholders.” As to the the addition of raw cannabis flower, she said “it is by far the number one area that would help with the affordability piece.”
About Sensible Change Minnesota: Sensible Change Minnesota is a 501(c)4 non-profit that aims to make our neighborhoods safer and more inclusive for those negatively impacted by cannabis prohibition and the war on drugs by promoting policies that emphasize compassion over isolation, restorative justice over incarceration, and public health over stigma. You can learn more about the organization by visiting www.changemn.org.
Press contact: Brandan Borgos, [email protected], 612-865-7811