Plants rise at a medical marijuana warehouse

Published 10:26 am Wednesday, May 6, 2015

ST. PAUL — Kim Kelsey walked row-by-row through a maze of hundreds of growing marijuana plants, dumbstruck, ecstatic and near tears at the 2-foot-tall plants and what she hopes they will do for her son.

After nearly 20 years of struggling to get Alec’s epilepsy under control, thousands of seizures, countless combinations of pills and weeks of rallying at the Capitol for a bill to legalize medical marijuana, Kelsey focused Tuesday on a smaller number: 56 days. The state’s two medical marijuana manufacturers say they’ll be ready to start distributing medicine come July 1, and Kelsey saw the evidence firsthand.

“I’m speechless,” Kelsey said, standing in front of a row of plants inside Minnesota Medical Solution’s production facility in Otsego with Kathy Engstrom, another mother hoping to treat her son’s epilepsy. “And I never stop talking.”

Email newsletter signup

For the two mothers, it’s a rapid turnaround since the state’s law passed last spring yet one that couldn’t come soon enough. Kelsey and Engstrom both  hope the marijuana oils, vapors and pills available in less than two months will be a miracle, small or large, for their sons.

Minnesota Medical Solutions — or MinnMed — and LeafLine Labs are still growing and cultivating their plants, fine-tuning doses and converting it into the more medicine-like forms that the state allows since the law bans smoking the plant itself. The companies will eventually open eight locations around the state to dispense to an estimated 5,000 patients.

The manufacturers emphasize their approach is rooted in medicine, hoping to establish a repeatable and measureable system that looks more professional than the stereotypical, free-wheeling pot dispensaries of California. But its start looks and smells the same — like a growhouse.

MinnMed’s production facility is tucked away in the far-flung Twin Cities exurb of Otsego,