GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. -- Minnesotans who suffer from intractable pain can now buy medical marijuana. On Monday, medical marijuana clinics opened their doors to certified pain patients.
"It wears you down terribly to be in pain all the time," said Judy Severson of Edina.
The 70-year-old grandmother of eight has suffered from intractable pain for years, including fibromyalgia, arachnoiditis and an inoperable cyst on her spine.
Severson became the first pain patient for Minnesota Medical Solutions' Bloomington location.
"I am so excited about this program. I've waited a long time. The quality of life that I could have, the promise of that is overwhelming," she said.
On July 1, 2015, Minnesota's medical cannabis law went into effect. Nearly 500 pain patients joined the program in July.
"This really is the kind of shot in the arm that the program needs, that's going to really increase visibility and help get people off opioid pain medications," said Dr. Kyle Kingsley, CEO of MinnMed.
Over at LeafLine Labs in Eagan, CEO and Co-Founder Dr. Andrew Bachman also addressed the prescription opioid epidemic in the United States.
"We have an alternative and/or complimentary medicine that has never been demonstrated to cause loss of life in a single drug ingestion," Dr. Bachman said.
LeafLine Labs also started taking its first pain patients on Monday morning.
"The tears and smiles that we've already seen will keep us fired up and inspired for the next year of the program," Dr. Bachman said.
Advocates hope pain patients will help make medical cannabis more affordable. According to Dr. Kingsley, the average MinnMed patient spends $240 per month but it can be more.
A recent study from the Minnesota Department of Health did find about 90 percent of patients enrolled in the initial medical cannabis program said they saw some benefit. However, that study did not include intractable pain because it was not approved yet.
"At this point, it has to work for me. It really does," Severson said.
Severson spends most of her day sleeping or sitting on the couch.
"I want to travel. I want to interact with my friends. My husband deserves a better wife than he has right now. So here we go," she said.