Minnesota medical marijuana users struggle with cost, finding doctors to prescribe

“I just think it’s so sad why we can’t set up a program that someone would find easier than (it is),” said Pat Mullen of Duluth. “They’ve got to find a way to inform people.”

When Mullen’s fiancee, the late Linnea Stephan, was fighting brain cancer, they sought a prescription for medical marijuana to counter the nausea caused by chemotherapy, he said. But they couldn’t find any oncologist at either Essentia Health or St. Luke’s Hospital in Duluth willing to certify her for that condition.

Unable to find a certifying provider in Duluth, the couple turned to a Twin Cities clinic.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if there’s someone in Duluth, but that’s part of the problem is how would I find out?” Mullen asked. “How would I know who it would even be?”

There’s no provider directory on the website of the Minnesota Department of Health’s Office of Medical Cannabis. The department “cannot say” what providers are in the registry, said Dr. Tom Arneson, research manager for the cannabis office.

That came as a surprise to the Health Department’s boss when she was asked about it during a visit to Duluth last week. “That’s a new one on me, that we don’t do that,” said Jan Malcolm, who Gov. Mark Dayton appointed as health commissioner in late January.

Different hospitals, different approaches

Patients may find more difficulty obtaining medical marijuana certification at certain hospitals.

At St. Luke’s, oncologists are the only practitioners who are on the registry, said Dr. Gary Peterson, the hospital’s chief medical officer. That’s not to say that an oncologist would necessarily agree to certify a particular patient.

“I would think that each individual cancer patient … would be evaluated individually as to the appropriateness of medical marijuana,” he said. “We wouldn’t expect that to be the

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