Online survey: About 1,000 Minnesotans express interest in new medical marijuana program

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ST. PAUL, Minnesota — Nearly 1,000 Minnesota residents told the state they'll likely register for the state's new medical marijuana program, according to survey results released Monday.

Another 325 residents said they might sign up once the program launches in July. But the survey was unscientific — it was conducted voluntarily online, and the state didn't verify whether respondents would actually qualify for the program.

The Minnesota Department of Health estimates about 5,000 people will eventually register, but officials also say it could be as many as 15,000. The state launched the electronic survey last month in hopes of gauging how many residents would sign up and, crucially, where they live.

Minnesota's two medical marijuana manufacturers tentatively plan to open dispensaries in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Eagan, Maple Grove, St. Cloud, Hibbing, Rochester and Moorhead. That would put four such locations within a 15-mile radius of the Twin Cities.

The results show interest in the program was heavily concentrated around the metro area. But there's also a smattering of interest statewide, including from rural pockets of Minnesota where patients or their parents may face hours-long drives to secure the medicine.

Manny Munson-Regala, an assistant health commissioner and the architect of the state's program, said the state will work with manufacturers to discuss any possible location changes, but said the survey results have not "prompted any immediate changes."

Just a handful of serious conditions qualify for the program passed by lawmakers last year. More than 50 percent of survey respondents said they suffered from multiple sclerosis and severe muscle spasms. About 18 percent listed seizures as the reason they may qualify for the program.

About 100 people told the state they didn't plan to apply. Of those, nearly a third cited high costs — both to register and for the marijuana oils, pills and vapors themselves. The state's manufacturers, MinnMed and LeafLine Labs, have said they expect a month's supply to run between $100 and $500.

About 53 percent of those surveyed are on public programs and thus would qualify for a reduced registration fee — $50 annually, down from $200.

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