MONTEVIDEO, Minn. — The two companies chosen to produce medical cannabis in Minnesota will be opening eight distribution sites for patients, with six within an hour’s drive of most Twin Cities metropolitan residents.
There are no plans for a distribution site in southwest Minnesota, with St. Cloud as perhaps the closest site for patients from such towns as Pipestone, Luverne, Marshall or Redwood Falls.
“Why is southwestern Minnesota being forgotten about for distribution?’’ asks Jeremy Pauling of Montevideo, a member of the state’s newly formed task force on medical cannabis.
It’s a question he posed to fellow task force members Wednesday in St. Paul, as Pauling made known his concerns about the lack of a designated site.
“That’s the fight I’m taking right now, because it’s not fair to us in southwest Minnesota,’’ said Pauling.
Pauling’s appointment earlier this year to the task force followed his work to promote Minnesota’s law allowing medical cannabis. Pauling and his wife, Kristy, have a young daughter who suffers seizures due to Batten disease. They advocated for medical cannabis to ease her suffering.
Pauling said he has no qualms about making the trip from his home in Montevideo to St. Cloud each month to fill a medical cannabis prescription for his daughter. “Two hours driving for me is not a big deal,’’ he said of the one-way trip to St. Cloud.
However, he is concerned about the others who will be making the trip requiring much more time on the road. Many of those are cancer patients and others with painful conditions and, frequently, with economic limitations.
A round trip to St. Cloud from many areas in southwestern Minnesota will range from six to eight hours, Pauling said.
Health insurance won’t cover their travel expenses or the $500-a-month prescription costs, Pauling said. Making them drive a long distance to a distribution site only contributes to the hardships they are already enduring.
The chosen distribution sites, Pauling said, seem chosen to benefit the economics of the cannabis manufacturers instead of patients.
The intent of the original legislation was all about providing access to medical cannabis, Pauling said. “When we started this fight it wasn’t about money, it was about making sick people better. Now it seems like its boiling down to the economics instead.’’
The legislation requires that the manufacturers open eight distribution sites, with one in each of Minnesota’s congressional districts. Besides St. Cloud, other outstate distribution locations selected were Hibbing and Moorhead. Pauling said he questions the value of the Moorhead location due to its proximity to the North Dakota border.
He said his complaints about the lack of a southwestern Minnesota distribution site did not seem to generate much attention at the task force meeting. He said one of the arguments tossed against him was that it has been hard to work with communities to locate distribution centers.
Pauling challenged the claim. The southwest Minnesota communities of Montevideo and Granite Falls had both gone on record this fall supporting a proposal by Pauling to have manufacturing and distribution facilities. He is also aware that Willmar went on record as supporting a proposal by another party for a manufacturing site. He told task force members that any of the three communities would work with the chosen manufacturers to host a distribution site.
Tags: health care, medical marijuana, twin cities, updates, marijuana, cannabis, minnesota, patients
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