Jun. 30—MANKATO — A medical marijuana dispensary is coming to Mankato for the first time, eliminating the need for a trip to Rochester or the Twin Cities for local residents to fill a cannabis prescription.
Details haven't been released on which company is planning to open shop in Mankato or precisely where the dispensary will be located. But City Manager Susan Arntz has informed the City Council that the issue will be on the agenda for the next council meeting on July 12.
"We have an applicant that is looking at a location in our community that would fill prescriptions for medical cannabis," Arntz said.
The applicant has examined Mankato city ordinances regulating tobacco and vaping and notes that they would make the sale of medical marijuana illegal even though Minnesota law allows it for people with a variety of ailments if they have a prescription.
The upcoming council meeting agenda will include a resolution setting a public hearing for later in the summer to amend city ordinances.
"We are talking about a very narrow allowance for just that category," Arntz said.
The city tobacco ordinance would need to be changed in two places. One regulates the sale of vaping products, which is a delivery method for medical cannabis. The other explicitly prohibits the sale of products "containing opium, morphine, jimson weed, bella donna, strychnos, cocaine, marijuana or other deleterious, hallucinogenic, toxic or controlled substances."
Minnesota's medical marijuana law, which faced strong skepticism from then-Gov. Mark Dayton and some lawmakers, has been one of the strictest in the nation. Currently, even those with a prescription can't smoke the dried marijuana plant.
Instead, the cannabis can only be supplied by licensed producers in a liquid, pill, topical or vaporized form. Medical marijuana advocates have criticized that restriction, saying it makes the product unnecessarily expensive and, thus, less accessible for lower-income Minnesotans.
The current Legislature and Gov. Tim Walz heard those complaints during the 2021 legislative session, agreeing to change the law to allow prescriptions of raw, dried cannabis starting no later than March 1, 2022.
Doctors can prescribe cannabis for cancer-caused pain or nausea, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, Tourette syndrome, ALS, seizures, multiple sclerosis, certain digestive diseases such as Crohn's, PTSD, autism, chronic pain and other defined conditions. The Legislature this year also expanded the qualifying diseases to include sickle cell disease and chronic motor or vocal tic disorder.
Council member Jenn Melby-Kelley applauded the news that a dispensary is coming to Mankato, saying she knows several people with PTSD or other health issues who are forced to travel to the Twin Cities to fill prescriptions.
"I've actually met numerous people who have prescriptions ...," Melby-Kelley said. "It'll be great to have the dispensary here."
If the Mankato location comes to fruition, it will join 13 others across the state. Seven are in Minneapolis, St. Paul or their suburbs. Outstate dispensaries are in Duluth, Hibbing, St. Cloud and Moorhead in the northern half of Minnesota and Rochester and Willmar in the south.
Arntz said it would take "a few more weeks of work" to get the revised ordinance in place so the dispensary can open for business.