Why are Prices so High at Minnesota Dispensaries?
The thing we probably hear most often from patients is “It was a great decision to get a Minnesota Marijuana Card.” And the thing we hear second most often from those same patients? “Why are prices so high at Minnesota dispensaries?”
And while it’s true that the North Star State has notoriously high medical marijuana prices for a variety of reasons, it’s also true that those prices are probably going to start coming down soon, and that you get a lot more for your money with medical marijuana than you do with just some cheap street drug.
Yes, Minnesota’s Medical Marijuana Prices are High...
According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, in 2016 the Department of Health found that 86% of patients surveyed said medical marijuana was at least somewhat unaffordable.
And there are no shortages of stories from Minnesota marijuana patients about the hard reality of those high prices. Consider Patrick McClellan, of Bloomington. An early advocate of medical marijuana in our state, McClellan told NBC News that he treats his muscular dystrophy with illegal marijuana, because he cannot afford medical marijuana.
"When I originally went to the Capitol to work on medical cannabis, we were asking for safe, affordable, legal access to treatment recommended by doctors,” McClellan told NBC. “It's 10 years later, I'm still asking for the same thing. Patients can't afford it."
“The patients have been programmed out of this,” Paul Johnson, of St. Paul, told the Pioneer Press. A former medical cannabis patient, Johnson now buys street marijuana, because of the high cost of medical marijuana. “Make it affordable. I’d (re-enroll) in a heartbeat.”
...and Some of that Cost is Because Medical Marijuana is Expensive Everywhere…
“I would say affordability is the number one barrier to access (nationally),” Debbie Churgai of Americans for Safe Access, a legalization advocacy group, told NBC News.
And part of that lack of affordability can be attributed to marijuana’s tricky legal status. Medical marijuana providers have to comply with laws, a small annoyance that street dealers aren’t burdened with. And that small annoyance can equal big prices, no matter what state you’re in.
Marijuana is still on the DEA’s List of Controlled Substances, despite marijuana being legal in some form in most states. And it’s inclusion on that list is responsible for a lot of costs, which then get passed on to consumers.
Most banks refuse to work with cannabis companies, because of the legal and financial risks involved with what is, technically and federally, an illegal industry. That means anyone interested in growing or selling marijuana must have all of their start-up cash in hand before they can even begin pursuing legal clearance. It also means cannabis companies must usually work with the small number of payment processors and banks that are willing to take on the risks, but only for an outsized share of the profits.
...and some of that Cost is Baked into the Minnesota Medical Marijuana Act...
Because of a provision in the MMMA, Minnesota’s two cannabis providers are not allowed to write off business expenses, which the companies claim has led to high operating costs that are then passed onto the customers.
“That tax burden, it’s drastic,” Bill Parker, CEO of LeafLine Labs, told the Pioneer Press. “And it does cut into profits, and it affects everything.”
According to the Pioneer Press, the two companies combined for $11 million in losses in their first two years of operation.
“There’s been a lot of money invested and there hasn’t been a lot of money made in this market with less than 20,000 patients annually,” Jay Westwater, then-CEO of Green Goods told the Pioneer Press in 2019. “There are some fundamental issues with the highly regulated program that the Legislature enacted.”
“That tax burden, it’s drastic,” said Parker. “And it does cut into profits, and it affects everything.”
And then of course there is the cost of administering a state’s medical marijuana program, a cost that is paid by fees collected from cannabis companies and Minnesota Marijuana Card holders by the Minnesota Department of Health.
Maren Schroeder, of Sensible Change Minnesota, medical marijuana advocacy group, told NBC News, “There is a cost to administer a state medical cannabis program that has to be borne by someone. If it's not a patient registration fee or a tax, it's going to be an increased price of the product. Anyway you put it, the patients are going to pay for it.”
...but Some of that Cost is a Good Thing...
And while it would be great if we could get the benefits of medical marijuana without the extra cost of government bureaucracy and oversight, it’s those regulations that elevate medical marijuana. Yes, it costs more than street marijuana, but you get what you pay for.
...Because Medical Marijuana Means Confidence in the Purity and Efficacy of Your Products...
Maren Schroeder, of Stewartville, told the St. Cloud Times that she was looking forward to the upcoming arrival of flower marijuana in dispensaries, because it should be more affordable than the street marijuana she has been buying.
“It will help me have a legal route to get it in plant form, and that means safety,” Schroeder said. “That means everything I’m consuming has been lab tested and isn’t contaminated with mold or mildew or pesticide or herbicide or anything like that. So, I’m really excited about it.”
Beyond the quality assurance of knowing what chemicals have been used on your medicine, Minnesota Marijuana Card holders have the advantage of knowing the exact compositions and strains of the cannabis they purchase. And the ability to select specific strains helps you and your doctor match your condition to the exact right medicine for you.
Sure, you might be able to buy cheaper marijuana on the street, but you wouldn’t have the peace of mind of knowing exactly what you were putting in your body without the oversight of government regulation. You can always ask your illegal dealer to vouchsafe for the quality and chemical composition of their products, but, spoiler alert, drug dealers aren’t renowned for their honesty.
...and Medical Marijuana Means Doing Business with Trustworthy Experts.
Speaking of doing business with honest people, the MMMA assures that the people providing your medicine are qualified to do so, and are likely to be trustworthy.
As Ronald Reagan famously said, “Trust but verify,” and every step of the way, from seed-to-sale, Minnesota’s medical marijuana providers are required to provide transparency so that the Department of Health can verify.
Part of that verification involves rigorous background checks, as well as the assurance that only a pharmacist can dispense marijuana, so that you know your medicine is, you know, actually medicine.
Plus, by forcing patients to interact with physicians and pharmacists, the MMMA helps assure they get the most medical value out of their medical marijuana.
And That’s not all: Medical Marijuana Prices are Likely to Come Down Soon
Remember Maren Schroeder, that Stewartville resident who told the St. Cloud Times she was excited for the arrival of flower marijuana to Minnesota dispensaries?
Well the availability of flower marijuana doesn’t only mean there will be one more affordable option for you to choose from; it should mean prices dropping throughout dispensary selections.
Dr. Kyle Kingsley, the current CEO of Green Goods, told KARE 11, Minneapolis’ NBC affiliate that “The biggest short-term effect (of the availability of marijuana flower) is that you have these new very affordable products in the form of flower that are coming in.”
Kingsley told KARE that the lower cost of flower products should lead to increases in enrollment in Minnesota's medical marijuana market, which would then drive down costs for all medical marijuana products due to the increased demand.
"With flower you can generally get close to the same medicine, or even the same exact medication in some circumstances for around half the price," Kingsley told KARE. "Minnesota’s been very demand-limited, very few patients per capita, and that change is going to allow operators to scale up and drive down pricing."
There has Never Been a Better Time to Than now to get a Minnesota Marijuana Card
With the imminent arrival of flower marijuana to Minnesota dispensaries, the cost of medical marijuana should begin to drop. And as the high price has been the most commonly noted shortcoming of the MMMA, that means there has never been a better time than now to jump into the world of relief medical marijuana can offer.
And while flower marijuana is helping reduce the cost of your medicine, we’ll help lower the cost of getting your card! Reserve an evaluation with one of our compassionate doctors today, and we’ll book an appointment for you just as soon as we’re cleared to see patients.
Not only will you meet with your doctor virtually via your smartphone or computer via a telemedicine appointment, but you’ll also save $25 off the cost of your evaluation, and a full refund if you and your doctor decide medical marijuana isn’t right for you. You have literally nothing to lose, and potentially a whole new level of relief to gain!