The Office of Medical Cannabis’ request for more than $500,000 over the next two years is just a fraction of the Marijuana Stocks $40 billion-plus budget Minnesota’s Legislature will assemble this year. But state regulators say that money is critical to cover the higher-than-expected costs for maintenance of their around-the-clock patient registry and the costs of performing 120 inspections or more each year. “This is new for everybody, the government, the patients and the businesses included. It’s to be expected that there would be some bumps in the road,” said Rep. Pat Garofalo, a Republican with a key role overseeing the program. The state already provides about $1.4 million a year to help cover operating costs, and regulators can cover their oversight costs by charging manufacturers, LeafLine Labs and Minnesota Medical Solutions, an annual registration fee. But after increasing the manufacturers’ annual fee from $94,000 to $146,000 last year, Gov. Mark Dayton’s budget proposal says additional state funding is essential to help avoid an “increase the cost of medical cannabis to program participants.” Those costs range from software licensing and fixing bugs on their patient registry where the state tracks each patient’s progress with the new medications to the travel bills that come from visiting every distribution site, from Rochester in southern Minnesota to Moorhead, near its northwestern corner. “I don’t think anyone thought about us having eight cannabis centers statewide,” said Michelle Larson, the director of the state program.
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