By Esme Murphy

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Three weeks into the roll out of Minnesota’s medical marijuana program, the number of patients enrolling continues to be lower than many expected.

So far, only 183 patients have been approved in the registry to pick up their prescriptions.

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Supporters of medical cannabis blame the slow start on the fact that many Minnesota doctors say they are not willing to sign up their patients.

In order to qualify for the state’s medical marijuana program, a doctor has to certify to the state that their patient has one of nine qualifying conditions. The problem is that individual doctors, as well as large group medical practices, say they won’t do that.

The reason? In a survey, nearly half of Minnesota doctors say there has not been enough scientific research done to prove that medical cannabis works and does not have harmful side effects.

Dr. David Thorson, the president-elect of the Minnesota Medical Association, said the reason there isn’t much research on marijuana is because of how the drug is classified by the federal government.

He said it’s categorized as a schedule one drug “similar to heroin.”

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“We can’t even do studies on them,” Thorson said.

Some doctors also don’t like the fact that, under the Minnesota program, they won’t be doing the prescribing. That job goes to pharmacists at two state-approved dispensaries.

Doctors say handing off their patients to another medical professional is not a sound or safe medical practice.

Medical cannabis supporters have been sharply critical of the doctors reluctance, saying patients who have one of these qualifying conditions should not be having such a hard time getting their doctors to sign on.

The mother of one of those patients, Jessica Hauser, says the communication issues doctors have with the program can be worked on and that lawmakers on the national level are pushing to recategorize marijuana so more research can be done.

To see an interview with Dr. David Thorson, watch the video above. To see an interview with Jessica Hauser, watch the video below

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Esme Murphy