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Medical Marijuana in Minnesota: What you need to know

Gov. Mark Dayton signed a bill that legalizes the limited use of some forms of medical marijuana into law last week. Here's what you need to know:

Can I smoke pot legally now?


But can I smoke pot with a prescription?


Wait. So what CAN I do with pot now?

Patients with a prescription can consume cannabis in pill or liquid form, or they can vaporize whole plant extracts (also in oil form), but not the actual leaves of a marijuana plant.

How do I get a prescription?

A health-care practitioner must certify that you have been diagnosed with one of these qualifying medical conditions:

  • cancer
  • glaucoma
  • HIV or AIDS
  • Tourette syndrome
  • ALS
  • seizures or epilepsy
  • muscle spasms, like those characteristic of multiple sclerosis
  • Crohn's disease
  • terminal illness, with a probable life expectancy of under one year -- if the illness or its treatment produces severe pain, nausea, severe wasting
  • Or other conditions approved by the commissioner of health

Once your condition is certified, you or your caregiver can apply to enroll in the medical cannabis registry. If you are a caregiver, you must first pass a background check and cover its cost. Once verified to be a part of the registry, you must continue to see your health care practitioner and report any changes in your medical condition.

Can I get the pills, oils and extracts from my pharmacist?

No. All medical cannabis in the state will be produced by two registered manufacturers. Each manufacturer is allowed to open four distribution sites -- for eight total in the state. The manufacturers must be registered by Dec. 1, 2014 and start distributing by July 1, 2015. The distribution sites are required to be located throughout the state to improve patient access. The manufacturers must be independent from health care practitioners (they can't be in the same facility) and patients can't consume cannabis at the distribution sites.

What does it cost?

Patients on the registry must pay a $200 annual fee (or $50 if you receive Social Security disability, SSI or are enrolled in medical assistance or MinnesotaCare). Manufacturers also have to pay an annual fee. Manufacturers can also charge patients a "reasonable fee" (which could be on a sliding scale if the manufacturer desires). The health commissioner has to establish a formulary to determine the costs of the drugs themselves.

What happens if you don't follow these rules?

If a manufacturer, patient or caregiver on the registry gives medical cannabis to someone not on the registry they could face a fine of $3,000 and two years in jail -- and be removed from the registry. If you're not on the registry and you tell a law enforcement officer that you are in order to avoid arrest, you could be subject to a $1,000 fine and 90 days in jail.

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