While Legalized Cannabis Advocates in Minnesota Don’t Get What They Want, Changes to the Therapeutic Research Act are Coming

While Minnesotans watched last week as the Minnesota House passed a bill that would have legalized the growth and distribution of cannabis for recreational purposes, thoughts of all the possible legal scenarios that would ensue in the workplace danced in the heads of labor and employment attorneys across the state.  The Senate, however, failed to pass the bill that would have made it legal for Minnesotans 21-and-older to possess and use cannabis for recreational purposes.

However, the recreational marijuana vote wasn’t the only legislative activity involving the Devil’s Lettuce this year.  As part of an Omnibus health bill, both Minnesota’s House and Senate agreed to allow participants in the state’s medical cannabis program to smoke dried cannabis plants.  Previously, registrants were only allowed to consume medical cannabis in liquid, oil and pill forms.  However, after almost seven years of the program, patients found that the approved forms of the drug were almost prohibitively expensive, keeping many eligible Minnesotans from actually participating in the program.  The change in the law is expected to dramatically decrease the cost of medical cannabis to consumers, and may possibly expand the list of approved producers of medical cannabis, due to the more simplified legal form.

The current conditions that are eligible for treatment under the medical cannabis law in Minnesota include:

  • Cancer associated with severe/chronic pain, nausea, or severe wasting;
  • Glaucoma;
  • HIV/AIDS;
  • Tourette Syndrome;
  • ALS;
  • Seizures;
  • Muscle spasms;
  • IBS and Crohn’s disease;
  • Terminal Illness with life expectancy of less than one year;
  • Intractable pain;
  • PTSD;
  • Autism;
  • Obstructive sleep apnea; and
  • Alzheimer’s disease.

In addition to the change in accepted forms of medical cannabis, both sickle cell disease and chronic motor or vocal tic disorders will be added to the list of conditions for which individuals will be eligible to be on the registry as of August 2021.

The addition of dried marijuana flowers to the list of accepted forms of cannabis will not take place until March 2022, or whenever a testing mechanism can be developed for the product at the two manufacturers in the state.  But this change in the law should serve as a reminder to employers that they must keep their anti-drug policies up-to-date to correspond with the changing laws, as the anti-discrimination portion of the law remains in full force and effect.  If you, or your organization, need assistance in developing or updating your workplace drug policies, contact the Wiley Law Office, for experience that works.

This week’s blog brought to you by the first runner-up in the third annual Wiley Law Golf Open, Ben Reber.