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Proctor City Council gives OK to medical marijuana pharmacy proposal

The city of Proctor laid out the welcome mat Monday night to host one of eight medical marijuana pharmacy locations that will open somewhere in Minnesota next year.

Conor Filter
Conor Filter, CEO of Sano Remedies of St. Paul, addresses the Proctor City Council about the medical marijuana pharmacy that his company would like to pursue in Proctor during Monday's meeting at Proctor City Hall. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

 The city of Proctor laid out the welcome mat Monday night to host one of eight medical marijuana pharmacy locations that will open somewhere in Minnesota next year.
The City Council approved a resolution by unanimous voice vote supporting a proposal by Twin Cities-based Sano Remedies to house a medical cannabis pharmacy within the city.
A second proposal by another company to open a cannabis growing and distribution operation was tabled when that company, Minnesota Medicinal Marijuana LLC, did not show up for the meeting.
An issue that was expected to draw a large crowd in fact saw only a few people attend the council meeting. No one spoke against allowing Sano Remedies to open a facility where a licensed pharmacist would dispense medical cannabis in pill or oil form to patients suffering from  debilitating diseases like cancer, AIDS, ALS, seizures, glaucoma and terminal illnesses.
City Councilor Jake Benson supported the resolution, noting his mother has glaucoma and may finally get some relief from pain when medical cannabis becomes available in Minnesota next year.
“This proposal is long overdue in Minnesota,’’ Benson said of the 2014 state Legislature’s action that opened the door to medical cannabis.
Tony Mancuso of Duluth strongly urged the council to approve the resolution, saying medical cannabis may offer relief for people like his son, Michael, who has been afflicted with seizures since he was 3 months old.
“He’s had 27 years of suffering,” Mancuso said, noting that brain surgeries and experimental drugs have done nothing to cure his son’s predicament. “He’s not doing well. He will probably have a very short life because of what the drugs are doing to his liver. … I’m just trying to reach out for my son to support this.”
Mayor David Brenna urged the council to keep the two resolutions separate - Sano’s plans to open a pharmacy to dispense medicine to authorized patients and the second proposal to actually grow marijuana plants in the city. Brenna said he received five emails since newspaper articles were published on the issue last week, three in support of the pharmacy and two against the growing operation.
“It’s really two different things,’’ he said.
Brenna noted there are still several hurdles before Proctor would get the pharmacy, including Sano receiving one of two state licenses to operate.
Conor Filter, chief executive officer of Sano, said his company already is eyeing several properties in Proctor for a highly secure pharmacy. The company informally asked “a few’’ other cities if they would be open to the idea, including Duluth, but none were welcoming.
The company is now focusing only on Proctor for its 8th Congressional District pharmacy, Filter said.
“We think Proctor is a logical choice to provide medical cannabis to the Northland,’’ Filter said, noting the city is both geographically centered, has easy access for people in the Duluth area and has a welcoming business climate.
Other companies that have applied for a state license could be dealing with other cities.
Filter said the pharmacy will provide four or five “’high-paying jobs,’’ including a state-licensed pharmacist and several pharmacy techs.
“This is not a methadone clinic. This is not a head shop. This is a professional pharmacy,’’ Filter told the council.
Sano is one of 12 companies that submitted applications to the Minnesota Department of Health by last Friday’s deadline. Two of those companies will be picked to each begin a marijuana growing operation somewhere in Minnesota and each open four pharmacies for the cannabis to be dispersed.
One company will have the rights to the 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th Congressional District and one the 2nd, 4th, 6th and 8th. State law requires they be separate companies.
Filter said that, if his company is awarded one of the two state contracts, they have received preliminary approval to build its growing and distribution center in St. Paul.
Filter said he estimates about 5,000 patients statewide will use medical cannabis monthly, with an estimated 500 to 1,000 using the Proctor pharmacy.
Under Minnesota’s new medical cannabis law, passed last spring, the state health commissioner has until Dec. 1 to select and register two groups to manufacture medical cannabis in Minnesota.
By law, the department may not identify specific applicants until the selection process is complete - so it was unclear Friday whether the two companies proposing operations in Proctor did in fact apply for state permits before the deadline.
The two manufacturers selected by the state will grow the medical cannabis and process it into pill or liquid form and distribute it to seriously ill Minnesotans. To receive medical cannabis, a patient’s health care provider will have to certify that they are suffering from a qualifying medical condition.
Medical cannabis products could be available to patients by July 1, although state law provides for a six-month extension past that date if there are problems in selecting a manufacturer or in producing the medical cannabis products.

Related Topics: PROCTORHEALTH
John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at jmyers@duluthnews.com.
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