House Version of Minnesota Medical Marijuana Bills Faces Hurdles

Last week the Minnesota House and Senate each passed different versions of a medical marijuana law. A law could provide relief to some of the sick and dying.  (Current SF 2470 is the House Delete-All Bill; while current SF 1641 is the Senate Bill.)  Our previous post points out the differences in the two Bills, which will go to a Senate-House Conference Committee.  The Conference Committee should negotiate a single Bill from the two versions. Then that Conference Bill will go back to the House and Senate for an up or down vote. And if passed, it will then go to the Governor for consideration for approval into law.

Distribution – Pharmacies vs. Dispensaries

One key difference between is that the the House Bill follows a medical, clinical study format with distribution through pharmacists.  But this fundamental difference will trigger unintended consequences. And those consequences will make the law unworkable under other, existing Minnesota laws relating to pharmacists.

These other laws relating to pharmacies are not an issue for the Senate Bill. That Bill follows a dispensary model, as other the other twenty-one medical marijuana states do; and does not include pharmacists in distribution of medicine.

Problems for Pharmacies

House bill affirmatively requires a pharmacist to dispense cannabis. Senate bill does not.

Here are some pharmacist-related Minnesota laws and rules that will create trouble for the House bill:

Minnesota Statutes §151.15 COMPOUNDING DRUGS UNLAWFUL UNDER CERTAIN CONDITIONS.  “It shall be unlawful for any person to compound, dispense, vend, or sell drugs, medicines, chemicals, or poisons in any place other than a pharmacy, except as provided in this chapter.”

Minnesota Statutes §151.06 POWERS AND DUTIES. Subdivision 1. “Generally; rules. a) Powers and duties. The Board of Pharmacy shall have the power and it shall be its duty:
(7) to deny, suspend, revoke, or refuse to renew any registration or license required under this chapter, to any applicant or registrant or licensee upon any of the following grounds: …
(ii) in the case of a pharmacist, conviction in any court of a felony; …
(vii) employing, assisting, or enabling in any manner an unlicensed person to practice pharmacy; …
(ix) violation of any of the provisions of this chapter or any of the rules of the State Board of Pharmacy;”

Minnesota Administrative Rules § 6800.2250 UNPROFESSIONAL CONDUCT.  “Subpart 1. Prohibited conduct. Unprofessional conduct shall include, but is not limited to, the following acts of a pharmacist or pharmacy:

H. The violation of any law, rule, regulation, or ordinance of the state or any of its political subdivisions, including the Board of Pharmacy, or the United States government, or any agency thereof relating to the practice of pharmacy.

Subp. 3. Accessories to illegal drug traffic. The selling, giving away, or otherwise disposing of accessories (i.e., glassine papers, empty capsules, quinine, lactose, or similar products), chemicals, or drugs found in illegal drug traffic is unprofessional conduct by a pharmacist when the pharmacist knows or should have known of their intended use in illegal activities.

Dispensaries work in the United States 

The House version (SF 2470 the House Delete-All Bill) creates many problems. And those problems make it completely unworkable and illusory.  

It is based on distribution through pharmacists — a new, first-time experiment in the United States.  But no other medical marijuana state has ever tried this approach before.

On the other hand, the Senate version (SF 1641) relies upon the tried and true method of dispensaries. And other states have used the dispensary model for years for their legal medical marijuana programs.  

If Minnesota would provide compassionate relief to the sick, ill and dying; let’s ask the legislature’s Conference Committee to send the Senate version for final approval to the House, Senate and Governor.

By: Thomas C. Gallagher, Minneapolis Marijuana Lawyer and Minnesota NORML Board Member.

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