Minnesota Medical Solutions, one of the state’s two medical weed manufacturers, has jacked up prices by 15-20 percent on all its products, forcing chronically ill patients to head back to the streets to treat their pain.
MinnMed CEO Dr. Kyle Kingsley blames the hikes on a trifecta of problems. Not enough people are enrolled in Minnesota’s medical marijuana program, he says, and the majority of those registered qualify for medical assistance from the state, which gives them a 10-25 percent discount. Plus, MinnMed was the sole provider of expensive cannabis oil for the first three weeks after the program launch – while LeafLine Labs stuck to pills.
“[Cannabinoid oil] is really expensive to make, and most patients need an astronomical amount for it to be effective. We anticipated that both manufacturers would be making it,” Kingsley says. “So those things changed the finances for us pretty substantially.”
The bulk of the cost comes from lab processing, not cultivation. But MinnMed will be experimenting with different strains to find the most potent weed, which would eventually drive down prices, Kingsley says. He's also relying in part on help from Canna Care, which collects donations for patients in need of affordable medical marijuana.
Minnesota’s patients can barely afford marijuana in the first place. No insurance companies cover it, after all. Yet they’re not blaming Minnesota Medical Solutions for the extra burden, says registered patient Patrick McClellan.
“The manufacturers understood that for the first year or so, this was going to be the case, that there wouldn’t be enough people for them to even break even,” McClellan says. He’s hoping that the state health department will expand its list of conditions to include chronic pain, which would flood the system with thousands more patients.
Lawmakers toyed with including pain in previous drafts of the law but ultimately decided against it, creating one of the most restrictive programs in the country.
McClellan, who suffers from muscular dystrophy and experiences painful muscle spasms, paid $47 for pre-loaded vaporizer pens before the price hike. He’s now being charged $66. Whereas he used to budget for three MinnMed pens a month, he’ll now only be able to afford two.
“The product at MinnMed is fantastic. I love it, especially because on street cannabis I get paranoia and anxiety,” McClellan says. “That’s what we were trying to avoid. We wanted something that we knew was a legal, safe medication. We have that, but now none of us can afford it.”