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2 Years On, Minn.'s Medical Marijuana Loses Millions; Patients Gain Relief

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- We are getting two dramatically different readings on the success of Minnesota's medical marijuana program after two years in existence.

The state's two licensed providers continue to lose millions.

Documents filed with the state show that LeafLine Labs lost $4.7 million last year.

LeafLine Labs Medical Marijuana Tour
Medical marijuana inside LeafLine Labs (credit: CBS)

Minnesota Medical Solutions lost $1.2 million.

But a state study says a majority of patients are reporting substantial benefits.

Sixty-four percent of patients on medical marijuana report on a scale of 1 to 7 that the benefits rate at a 6 or 7.

"We will drop the stigma and the doubt and prove that medical cannabis is a viable option," said LeafLine labs co-founder Dr. Andrew Bachman during their 2015 ribbon-cutting ceremony.

But there were growing pains from the start.

Beth Hundley's daughter, Harlow, suffers from a rare form of epilepsy.

Harlow Hundley - Medical Marijuana Patient
Harlow Hundley (credit: The Hundley Family)

"It was definitely a battle," Hundley said.

Harlow was 3 years old when she became one of the first Minnesotans to qualify for program back in July of 2015.

Hundley says the impact of the twice-daily dose of cannabis oil has been profound.

"It's really given her a better quality of life," Hundley said. "She still can't talk, she still can't do a lot of things, but to have her engaged in life and feel present, it's given her so much."

Harlow is one of 5,200 patients enrolled in Minnesota's medical marijuana program. That is a dramatic increase over this time last year, when 1,200 were enrolled.

Beth Hundley
Beth Hundley (credit: CBS)

The increase is attributed to the addition of chronic pain as a qualifying condition in August of 2016. But Minnesota still has one of the most restrictive laws in the country, with only ten-qualifying conditions.

Post-traumatic stress disorder will be added this August.

Hundley says that list of conditions needs to be expanded.

"Just seeing how much it's done for my family, I want that for other people that are struggling on a daily basis," she said.

Harlow's medical cannabis now costs $200 a month, but that is because she is so small. Other patients WCCO spoke with say the high cost keeps them from enrolling.

As for those large losses from the two providers, experts tell WCCO providers were expected to lose money during the first three years of the program.

Dr. Bachman, LeafLine's CEO, says the losses were a result of expansion and were expected.

A Minnesota Medical Solutions spokesperson says their company expects to break even sometime this year.


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