MN Health Department is asking cannabis growers to help shape new program

Categories: Marijuana
Manny Munson-Regala, an assistant public health commissioner, speaks to interested growers at the Minnesota Historical Center
State officials don't know squat about pot. But in time, they will.

The rules governing Minnesota's medical cannabis program, which went out last week, are only a first draft based on conversations with other states and a review of relevant literature. They are an impressive one at that, but a best guess of what it takes to get off the ground in a crazy quick period of time.

See also:
MN Department of Health releases early rules, application for pot producers

By December, the health department must be able to judge the merits of a cannabis growing operation and award certificates to two "manufacturers." For help, those same officials are urging applicants to be honest and to create guidelines for things like security and chemical composition.

On Friday, Manny Munson-Regala, an assistant health department commissioner and a lawyer by training, told an auditorium of potential growers, "We need your guys' input."

Although there's nothing in the law prohibiting the state from partnering with growers, it's obvious that the state wants to put healthy distance between itself and the program. If Uncle Sam ever intervenes, Minnesota can say it's only doing its duty as a regulator. Everyone else is completely exposed and left with an intimidating number of what ifs.

The cost of getting set up as a grower is enormous -- about $10 million, according to Eric Reichwald, a local political consultant who now works for the Colorado-based Tears of Luv, which is hoping to get into the laboratory side of the equation. The state requires that each manufacturer contract with a third party to test samples and assure that what's going out to the public is consistent and safe. That by itself is a $1 million operation.

The commissioner of public health, Dr. Ed Ehlinger, is said to be considering whether "intractable pain" should be added to the list of qualifying conditions. If he does, it'll add thousands more people to the program, and force the manufacturers to act quickly and meet the new demand.

So who's bold enough to take on all this risk and pressure and expense? Some are obviously in it to make a buck (or try to) while others frame it as a Great Moment in History. Chris Stubbs, a scientist who's working with a mystery client from Colorado, speaks of the plant's ability to change lives.

"People are in tears," he says. "They can eat and sleep and bang their wives again. That's literally what they're telling me."

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