Minnesota Bill Doubles Home Grow Plant Count for MMJ Patients

Minnesota Bill Doubles Home Grow Plant Count for MMJ Patients

Medical marijuana patients would be permitted to grow up to 16 cannabis plants at home under a bill now pending in the state legislature. If approved, patients and caregivers would be able to grow twice the number of plants allowed under the state’s recreational marijuana legalization law, which went into effect on August 1 of last year.

Minnesota legalized medical marijuana in 2014 with a law that allows patients diagnosed with certain qualifying conditions to use cannabis medicinally with a doctor’s recommendation. The law also allows the state’s approximately 41,000 registered patients to designate a caregiver to pick up medical marijuana from a licensed medical dispensary on their behalf. The law did not authorize home cultivation by patients or caregivers, however.

The recreational marijuana legalization bill passed last year allows adults to grow up to eight cannabis plants at home, including up to four mature plants. Under a bill (HF 3766) introduced by Democratic Representative Jessica Hanson earlier this month, registered medical cannabis patients would be permitted to grow 16 plants. The bill also allows registered caregivers to grow marijuana on a patient’s behalf.

At a hearing on the legislation on Monday, Hanson said the bill would allow more medical marijuana patients to benefit from homegrown cannabis. She noted that because of their medical conditions, many patients have limited incomes that do not allow them to buy medical marijuana at dispensary prices. Additionally, patients who are disabled or face other limitations often are not able to grow cannabis themselves.

“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,” Hanson said, according to a report from CBS News.

Hanson told her colleagues that approving the bill would allow more patients to take advantage of the state’s medical cannabis program.

“We do not think that people with qualifying medical conditions on our medical cannabis program ought to be left out of the ability to benefit from homegrown cannabis simply because they are unable to grow it by themselves,” Hanson said in a news report of the hearing published by the Minnesota House of Representatives.

Republican state Representative Anne Neu Brindley questioned the need for Hanson’s bill, noting that the recreational marijuana legalization law allows all adults to grow cannabis at home. She also noted that cannabis grown under Hanson’s bill would not face the same safety testing requirements faced by commercial cannabis growers.

“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.”

Hanson replied that the cannabis lab testing infrastructure in Minnesota would not be able to accommodate the demand that would be created by requiring all homegrown medical cannabis to be tested. She also noted that the law does not require testing of home-cultivated recreational marijuana.

“It’s my opinion that setting a different or a higher bar for people with disabilities who simply need help growing their own cannabis at home is not inclusive,” Hanson said.

Leili Fatehi, a cannabis advocate and partner and principal of Minneapolis-based consultancy firm Blunt Strategies, said that the “legislation takes a thoughtful approach to the complex issues faced by patients with debilitating conditions, aiming to reduce the financial burden associated with accessing effective treatment.”

“The efforts of Rep. Jessica Hanson and local advocates highlight a commitment to compassionate, patient-centered healthcare, reflecting the best in both legislative and community leadership,” Fatehi wrote in a statement to High Times. “Moreover, recognizing that many in our registry program are either physically incapable of cultivating cannabis due to health conditions or are hindered by their living situations, this bill addresses the critical need for accessible alternatives to forcing patients to choose between high dispensary prices or the unpredictability of receiving cannabis through legal gifting.”

Hanson’s bill has been referred to the House Commerce Finance and Policy Committee for consideration.

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