MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota’s medical cannabis program has now been treating patients for six months.

As of Monday, the state’s registry had 847 people with suffering with different types of chronic illnesses who are qualified to try medical cannabis as an option for relief.

Some of those patients gathered in Minneapolis Monday afternoon to discuss how their lives have changed and how the state’s program is set to expand.

MinnMed Chief medical officer Dr. Laura Bultman runs two patient treatment centers in Minneapolis and Rochester. She says her team has treated 561 patients so far.

“These are real patients just like your neighbors, your moms or dads,” she said.

Bultman said while medical cannabis does not work for everyone, she has seen many stories of improved comfort and health for her patients.

Jess Blake of Duluth, is battling a brain tumor and has been using medical cannabis since July 1.

“My darkest days were when I couldn’t problem-solve or manage my own medications,” she said.

Blake says her life has changed for the better since she began using medical cannabis.

“Now, I can take care of my dog, which is great,” she said.

Now, the small things, are major victories for Blake.

“My handwriting is just like it used to be,” she said.

For many of these patients, medical cannabis has replaced strong pharmaceutical drugs which they say had awful side effects. Patient Patrick McClellan wants the stigma surrounding medical cannabis to end through education and open dialogue.

“Not only do we have a nice clean facility, we also have high quality medication,” he said.

Blake now has hope she can one day do all the things that used to feel normal, including her job as a middle school social studies teacher.

“I liked the energy those kids brought to the room, so I would like to experience that again,” she said.

Dr. Bultman says this spring two more MinnMed patient centers will open in Moorhead and somewhere in the Twin Cities Metro.

Medical marijuana manufacturers have said adding more patients is the key to lowering high costs that have scared some patients away. Demand is expected to grow drastically since Minnesota’s Department of Health decided earlier this month to allow severe, chronic pain to join the list of qualifying conditions.

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