It was a brisk but sunny afternoon in St. Paul, the last day of February, and the young woman behind the pharmacy counter at the Vandalia Street offices of Rise Dispensaries smiled broadly behind dark eyeliner and hints of goth makeup as she handed clients fresh bits of history, one smokable marijuana roll at a time.
With little public fanfare, Rise — formerly known as LeafLine Labs — began selling rolls and jars of “buds,” or dried, raw cannabis flower, to adult medical marijuana users on the first day such sales were legal in Minnesota.
For the state’s burgeoning medicinal marijuana industry, the date marked a long-awaited breakthrough of sorts.
Legal medical marijuana sales officially began on July 1, 2015, but at the time it was signed into law by then-Gov. Mark Dayton, the state legislation that authorized those sales was widely considered the most restrictive of its kind in the nation.
A patient would have to meet one of nine major qualifying conditions to receive marijuana in a liquid, pill or vaporized delivery method. Smoking “pot” was still off the table.
State law has since loosened, at least by a pinch. Among what’s now 17 qualifying conditions, “now we have ‘chronic pain’ and that’s a big one, because there’s a lot of things that fall under chronic pain,” said Sarah Lynch, commercial general manager for Rise’s Minnesota dispensaries.
Still, the industry as a legal option remains nascent and restricted…