Interest Lights Up as State looks to Select 1st Medical Pot Manufacturers

Updated: 08/08/2014 7:46 AM By: Cassie Hart

Photo: AP/Ed Andrieski, File
Photo: AP/Ed Andrieski, File

Medical marijuana is coming to Minnesota, and the question is, "Who's going to manufacture it?"

Finding a manufacturer is no easy task.

Dr. Marshall Brinton is a licensed veterinarian who used to operate a veterinary vaccine company in Willmar. He retired after a wakeboarding accident left him disabled.

"I attempted to find other veterinarians that could take over my business," he said, "and no one, it just didn't happen."

That means Brinton still has all of that highly-specialized equipment and the building, and now, thanks to Minnesota's new medical marijuana law, that might not be such a bad thing.

As it turns out, a lot of people like Brinton are interested in making Minnesota's first medical marijuana. The Health Department will hold an informational meeting Friday. More than 220 people are scheduled to attend, meaning they're showing interest in what is, in fact, a pretty tough job.

"In seven months, turn plant into medicine," summed up Department of Health Assistant Commissioner Manny Munson-Regala.

Don't forget, medical marijuana may be legal here, but it's not federally. That means Minnesota's first manufacturer really needs to be located here.

"There are some medications that are working in Oregon or Colorado," explained Munson-Regala. "It would've been nice if we could've just simply shipped those medications here for our patients use. We're going to have to essentially recreate what they're doing in their states in our state."

Ultimately, two manufacturers will be picked by the state commissioner of health. Brinton, a licensed doctor who says he does not smoke pot recreationally, hopes he's one.

"I wouldn't mind being a part of this," he said, "because it's, it's a good idea."

The application process to become one of the state's two medical marijuana manufacturers opens in September. Patients are expected to be able to get medical marijuana starting in July of 2015.

Friday's meeting is for parties interested growing and cultivating the drug. The meeting will give potential producers information on the program's rules and regulations, and it will allow the state to better gauge interest in participation.
The meeting starts at 9 a.m. Friday in a ballroom at the Minnesota History Center.