Many states across the country are decriminalizing and legalizing marijuana, and other states are greatly expanding the reach of their medical marijuana programs. Advocates cite new revenue streams and individuals’ rights. Opponents say marijuana increases crime and makes roadways more dangerous.

Here in Minnesota an initiative to legalize recreational recently failed in the State Senate. A law legalizing medical marijuana in Minnesota passed in 2014 but its provisions are narrow in scope. However, lawmakers are now attempting to expand the medical marijuana program.

Current laws

Minnesota decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana decades ago, but recreational marijuana remains illegal. Possessing more than an ounce and a half is a felony punishable by up to five years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.

Minnesota has some of the strictest medical marijuana laws in the country. Medical marijuana is only prescriptible for 13 different ailments. They include cancer, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, PTSD and autism. All smokable and edible forms of marijuana remain illegal. People prescribed medical marijuana may only use it in the form of capsules, oils, tinctures, creams and vapor.

People with Alzheimer’s disease will qualify for treatment with medical marijuana on July 1, 2019.

There are only eight locations in Minnesota that dispense medical marijuana, and four of them are in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. There is a $200 annual fee for the eligibility to purchase marijuana, plus the price of the marijuana products purchased. Lower-income patients may qualify for a reduced annual fee.

Possible expansions

Aside from the addition of Alzheimer’s disease to the list of qualifying conditions, there are other proposed changes to the state’s medical marijuana program. A bill gaining bipartisan support in the legislature would double the number of marijuana dispensaries, lower the costs associated with medical marijuana and allow children prescribed medical marijuana to be dosed on school grounds.