Why Minnesota's Marijuana Patients Still Buy Illegally

Prices are sky high, patients say
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 21, 2015 9:53 AM CDT
In this Sept. 17, 2015 photo, Jonathan Holmgren poses with medical cannabis products at his home in Spring Lake Park, M.N.   (Jim Mone)
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(Newser) – Just two months after Minnesota launched its medical marijuana program, some patients turned off by high costs say they are back to buying the drug illegally because it's the only way they can afford it. State officials and the companies hired to make marijuana products trumpeted the program's medical approach—pills and oils, no leaf products—when it launched in July. But some patients say the highly restricted and regulated system is costing them hundreds or even thousands of dollars a month, none of it covered by insurance. Company executives defend their prices—a small vial of marijuana extract can run nearly $130 in Minnesota, more than double the cost of a similar product in Colorado—and say costs will fall over time.

According to state data, nearly one in five of the 491 registered patients hadn't returned to buy more medication in the last month, though officials stress there are many possible explanations. Faced with an estimated $2,000 bill, Jonathan Holmgren is back to using the raw plant that the state still deems illegal to treat his Crohn's disease for just $400 a month. At least four other patients registered with the state tell the AP they've reverted to buying marijuana on the streets because of cost. The AP notes that oils and pills cost more to make, and the customer base is small. One manufacturer has already announced delays in opening some of the distribution centers outside the Minneapolis metro area and raised its prices. Part of the price discrepancy with other states' offerings is also due to simple competition: Just two companies are allowed in Minnesota; Colorado has no such limit. (Read more Minnesota stories.)

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