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Proposal would double the number of plants medical cannabis patients can grow at home

Minnesota lawmakers suggest changes to medical cannabis program
Minnesota lawmakers suggest changes to medical cannabis program 01:36

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota medical cannabis patients would be able to grow up to 16 plants at home under a bill in the state legislature — double the amount allowed for adults under the new law legalizing marijuana for recreational use.

The more than 41,000 enrolled in the medical program could also designate a registered caregiver to grow the plants on their behalf. 

Caregivers can already pick up cannabis products from state-licensed medical dispensaries. Rep. Jessica Hanson, DFL-Burnsville, told a House panel Monday that the change would allow more people to participate in home-growing when they otherwise couldn't tend to the plants on their own.

"As it stands, people with disabilities and conditions that qualify them to be on the medical program can only grow their own if they know how to, if they can afford to, if their condition or living situation allows them to or if they know someone who will gift them homegrown products," she said. 

The sweeping law legalizing cannabis for recreational use permits adults 21 and older to grow eight plants at one time—only four are allowed to be mature—without a state cultivator license required to do business once the legal market comes online next year. 

Bill authors last year vowed to preserve the medical program when drafting the new law, including changes in it designed to make the process easier for patients to enroll and ensure other protections about where patients are allowed to use medical products. 

Since it passed in 2014, the law authorizing medical cannabis specified 19 qualifying health conditions approved for treatment and it gives discretion to the Office of Medical Cannabis within the state's health department to add more to the list. Health care providers could certify a patient for medical cannabis without that prior agency approval in separate legislation heard in the same committee Monday.

"That is a very small list and it is very prohibitive and there are other conditions which could benefit from having this expanded, but they cannot at this point," said Rep. Kaohly Vang Her, DFL-St. Paul.

Rep. Anne Neu Brindley, a Republican from North Branch, said she supported Her's proposal but questioned if Hanson's bill is necessary, given that the law greenlighting recreational marijuana allows for home-growing. 

She expressed concern that those plants don't face the same testing requirements as state-licensed cultivators. 

"I would question whether or not caregivers are the best place to do that. They're not trained in this and we're treating this as medicine in this situation particularly," she said. "And so I would question whether or not this is the most appropriate way to move forward on that."

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