Update: An earlier version of the article erroneously listed age-related muscular degeneration as an approved qualifying condition. While it was approved by the Commissioner of Health, it was later repealed by the Minnesota Legislature.
A lot has happened in the last few weeks around cannabis in Minnesota. In July, both the State of Minnesota’s and the Red Lake Nation’s hemp programs were approved by the USDA for transition to a post-pilot program. Minnesota Senator Tina Smith (D) introduced legislation to legalize adult-use cannabis nationwide and regulate it similar to tobacco. August 1 marked the first day that chronic pain patients in Minnesota could get medicine in the state’s medical cannabis program. Also, while it hasn’t happened yet, the White Earth tribe will be voting on legalizing medical cannabis on August 18.
Now’s a good time to look at Minnesota’s Cannabis Industry by the numbers:
Number of Medical Cannabis Patients in Minnesota
The number of registered medical cannabis patients in Minnesota has risen steadily since the program’s rollout in 2015. A jump in the numbered of registered patients can usually be seen after a new qualifying condition is added, but we’ll need to wait until the numbers are reported in October to see if the same is true of chronic pain.
*The number of registered patients is artificially inflated in July of 2020 as the result of an Executive Order issued by Governor Walz extending all state registrations, including for medical cannabis patients.
Number of Medical Cannabis Businesses in Minnesota
Minnesota currently has two medical cannabis businesses, Leafline Labs and Minnesota Medical Solutions. Each manufacturer can have up to 8 distribution sites spread throughout the state. The chart above compares Minnesota to other similar states, per a Sensible Change MN report. Minnesota’s program is dwarfed by the number of businesses in states such as Arizona, Florida, and Oklahoma.
Of the 16 dispensaries allowed under Minnesota law, only nine are currently open. Four Minnesota Medical Solution locations are open in Minneapolis, Rochester, Bloomington, and Moorhead. Five Leafline Labs Locations are open in St. Paul, Eagan, St. Cloud, Hibbing, and Willmar.
Cost of Medical Cannabis in Minnesota
Not only does Minnesota have one of the most restrictive medical cannabis programs in the country, it also has one of the most expensive. Looking at the cost per mg THC shows that patients in Minnesota are paying upwards to four times as much for similar products. A Minnesota cannabis patient would pay $0.18/mg THC in a vaporizer cartridge while a patient in Arizona would pay $0.07/mg THC. The above chart also includes raw flower $ cost per mg of THC, which is substantially lower (AZ is $0.04/mg THC). Unfortunately, Minnesota’s program does not allow patients access to raw cannabis flower.
On average, patients in Minnesota spend $316 per month, down from $362 in 2016.
Number of Hemp Businesses
Since the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, Minnesota’s hemp industry has significantly expanded, going from 51 licensed businesses to 399 in one year. A larger portion of the hemp industry is processors today than in the past. In 2019, over 7,000 acres of hemp was planted (along with over 400,000 square footage of indoor grow space). CBD oil and other hemp-derived products continue to be popular in the state and around the country, so it’s likely that we’ll see a continual growth in the number of cultivators and processors reported at the end of 2020.
Purpose of Regulated Hemp Crop in Minnesota
Minnesota’s hemp industry today is primarily for cannabidiol (CBD) and other cannabinoids, but that wasn’t always the case. 2019 (and partially 2018) saw a huge jump in the number of cultivators growing hemp for CBD. In 2017, 0.4% of the crop in Minnesota was for CBD whereas in 2019, that number was 74.4%. Farmers throughout the state continue to explore strains high in other lesser known cannabinoids, such as cannabigerol (CBG) and cannabinol (CBN).
The most commonly grown hemp strains in Minnesota are:
- Mahkato (0.14% THC/4.96% CBD) – 289.4 acres planted
- Otto II x BaOx (0.30% THC/2.50% CBD) – 140 acres planted
- MN Prairie (0.09% THC/3.57% CBD) – 118.25 acres planted
So what comes next?
With the Red Lake Nation’s medical program in the works, the White Earth tribe’s vote later this month, an adult-use legalization bill in the legislature, and a continued expansion of qualifying conditions in the state’s medical program, we can expect to see an even larger cannabis industry in Minnesota in the future.