MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – One of Minnesota's medical marijuana growers announced an important discovery on Wednesday. Their researchers have developed a new strain of cannabis that is highly effective in treating epilepsy.
And they say its potency will greatly reduce the production cost of the medicine, making it more affordable for patients. Minnesota Medical Solutions spoke with reporters at their growing facility in Otsego on Wednesday.
When the two state-approved marijuana growers opened last year, their staff included horticulturists to examine which varieties of cannabis are the most effective for particular ailments, and to breed new strains of the plant.
The chief executive officer of Minnesota Medical Solutions, Dr. Kyle Kingsley, said Wednesday they have developed a strain that has an exceptionally high level of a component known for reducing seizures and inflammation.
"Today we are announcing a very exciting discovery," he said as he began a news conference.
He stood next to a large cannabis plant and indicated that inside the buds, you'll find a powerful ingredient called C-B-D. Some doctors say it can relieve pain and reduce seizures and muscle spasms, without the intoxicating effects of the other active ingredients of marijuana, like THC.
"Our interdisciplinary team has discovered a plant that we believe to be the most CBD-rich in the world," he said.
Dr. Kingsley says they are currently growing hundreds of these newly-developed plants that came from seeds that horticulturalists bred.
And he explained that the discovery will reduce the cost of processing the plant. Medical marijuana can only be sold in liquid or pill form in Minnesota.
"The big winner here is going to be patients. This allows us to produce high CBD medications in a much more efficient manner. And in the next year we anticipate this novel development, this new strain is going to drive down prices for all patients," Dr. Kingsley said.
The new strain has a new name: Katelyn Faith.
She was a little girl from Montevideo who helped convince the state legislature to legalize medical marijuana. Katelyn died shortly before the law passed.
"This wouldn't have saved her. She had a fatal neurologic condition. But it may have improved her quality of life at the end," Dr. Kingsley said.
Dr. Charles Reznikoff specializes in internal medicine and addiction at Hennepin County Medical Center.
"I think it really is a big deal," he said of the announcement, noting that the preliminary findings of some studies show that medical marijuana is helping patients.
But he says most doctors still want more scientific evidence medical marijuana is safe.
"Many of these studies are underway. A lot of people are hopeful that we will have real answers in the next few years," Dr. Reznikoff said.
The latest numbers from the state show 804 patients in Minnesota have been approved to buy medical marijuana, and 466 health care providers are registered to certify patients. Some patients are paying between $200 and $400 a month.
When will medicine from this new strain be available and are there any restrictions on who can get it? It won't be mass produced until a few months from now.
You have to be a Minnesota resident to purchase and use the medical marijuana produced here. They say they do anticipate people moving here so that they can have access, just like the Minnesotans who headed to Colorado before medical marijuana was legalized here.
Just two weeks ago, intractable pain was added to the list of conditions approved by the state health department for medical marijuana treatment.
Some of the other conditions include cancer, Crohn's disease and AIDS.
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