By next year, there may be as many as a thousand medical cannabis patients in northern Minnesota, though it's seeming less and less likely that any of them will pick up their supplies in Duluth.
Earlier this month, the city's planning committee proposed a six-month moratorium on cannabis manufacturers or distributors, giving city officials time to consider how a facility would affect the homestead.
On Monday, city council president Linda Krug cited zoning concerns and asked, "Where would it have the least amount of destruction to neighborhoods and people's lives?" But the city might not be having this discussion at all if it weren't for Jim Carlson, owner of the Last Place on Earth, a downtown headshop.
He was sentenced recently to 17 and a half years in prison for allegedly selling synthetic drugs. Carlson maintains that he did nothing wrong: He sold incense and bath salts, some of which came with a warning not to consume. But consume people did -- causing the city establishment to gasp.
"I think it's made everybody a little gun shy and worrisome," says Duluth city council member Howie Hanson. "It cost us a lot of angst."
The angst may have been legit, but the comparison is not fair. Synthetic drugs provide psychonauts with the fuel for uncharted and potentially dangerous trips. Medical cannabis is intended to serve ailing children and desperate adults.
"It's a legal industry under Minnesota law," says Duluth city council member Joel Sipress. "And I think that from the point of view of jobs and development it's something that the city should be open to."
But if the city waits long enough it might miss the opportunity. The Minnesota Department of Health is in the process of reviewing 12 possible manufacturers, each of which were asked to list possible production sites on their applications. The expected start date for the medical cannabis program is July 2015, which makes the task of setting up in time, in Duluth, unlikely (unless the state decides to delay the program).
Proctor, Minnesota, on the other hand, is both open and eager to accommodate a cannabis distributor. Earlier this month, mayor Dave Brenna told FOX 21 that two companies -- Sano Remedies and Minnesota Medical Marijuana LLC -- have already expressed interest. Sano Remedies, the mayor added, first knocked on Duluth's door, but Duluth didn't want them.