- Associated Press - Thursday, May 5, 2016

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - In a story May 5 about Minnesota adding medical marijuana clinics, The Associated Press reported erroneously that the state had predicted about 5,000 patients would flood the clinics when they began distributing cannabis in 2015. The state’s 5,000-patient estimate was for enrollment by the 2017 fiscal year.

A corrected version of the story is below:

Concerns remain as Minnesota’s medical marijuana sites grow

Minnesota is expected to have eight medical marijuana clinics open this summer, but some observers are wondering whether there’s enough patient demand

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Minnesota is expected to have eight medical marijuana clinics open this summer, but some observers are wondering whether there’s enough patient demand.

The state had predicted about 5,000 patients might enroll by the 2017 fiscal year, Minnesota Public Radio News (https://bit.ly/1T0pacW) reported. So far, about 1,300 patients, who live an average of 46 miles from the closest clinic, have been approved since the program launched in 2015, according to Minnesota Health Department data.

In addition to distance, some patients also are concerned about the cost of medical marijuana.

Patrick McClellan, 50, of Bloomington suffers from constant muscle spasms, but he can only afford to spend $250 a month on medical marijuana.

“We can’t afford to solely use this medication,” he said. “For $250 a month for people that are on social security, disability and are not working, it’s just impossible for most people to afford, much less these costs of $500, $600 a month or even $1,000 a month.”

But the biggest reason behind the low demand is the short list of qualifying conditions, rather than distance or cost, according to Minnesota Medical Solutions CEO Dr. Kyle Kingsley.

Only nine conditions, including seizures, muscle spasms and Crohn’s disease, qualified when the state program began. A tenth condition, intractable pain, was later added and will go into effect in August.

“The biggest one is intractable pain because that’s going to pull a lot of folks into the fold that right now are relying on things like opiates and they’re a threat to your life with the addiction, the overdose risk,” Kingsley said. “Cannabis just doesn’t have those risks.”

Minnesota Medical Solutions plans to open the state’s next medical marijuana operations in Bloomington and Moorhead by July 1. It also has opened sites in Minneapolis and Rochester.

The company’s competitor, LeafLine Labs, opened its first dispensary last summer in Eagan and plans to open sites in St. Cloud, Hibbing and St. Paul by its July contractual deadline.

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