- Associated Press - Monday, September 21, 2015

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Amid criticism of high prices for medical marijuana, one of Minnesota’s manufacturers on Monday announced a discount for patients buying a month’s supply of medicine.

LeafLine Labs’ 15 percent discount could mean anywhere between $15 in savings on some of the company’s less expensive pills, and as much as a $150 discount on more expensive products, chief executive Manny Munson-Regala said. The shift comes after LeafLine’s competitor, Minnesota Medical Solutions, substantially increased its own prices earlier this summer.

Executives at both companies have acknowledged the high prices can be difficult for many patients and vowed to keep driving down costs as the program grows. They already offer a discount to low-income residents, and are working on charitable arms to help buy down costs for some patients.

“This is an option that we hope works for them,” Munson-Regala said of the recent discount.

But it’s unclear whether LeafLine’s move will go far enough to bring down costs. The high prices quickly approach hundreds and even thousands of dollars for a month of medicine, prompting some patients to leave the legal protections of Minnesota’s new law and head back to the black market.

Several patients told The Associated Press that since the program’s July launch, prices have prompted them to revert to buying the plant form on the streets. State law still bans medical marijuana patients from using the raw plant and caps purchases at a month’s worth of pills, oils and vapors.

Munson-Regala said he’s aware of just one LeafLine patient who left the program due to high costs. Rather, he’s more concerned about patients who buy less than a full-month’s supply due to cost concerns.

He said a key factor in cutting costs is bringing more patients into the program. As of Friday, just 491 patients were registered.

State officials are weighing whether to allow people suffering chronic pain to qualify, an addition that could drastically expand program enrollment. Current regulations allow patients to sign up if they have one of nine ailments, including cancer, HIV or AIDS or Crohn’s disease.


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