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Minnesota Health Dept. receives 29 letters of intent from would-be medical marijuana growers

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ST. PAUL, Minnesota — The Minnesota Department of Health said Friday it has received 29 letters of intent from people interested in growing medical marijuana, the first official step in selecting medical cannabis manufacturers under the state's new program.

Friday was the deadline for companies to submit a letter of intent. Applications are due Oct. 3.

Two manufacturers will be selected in December. Potential investors must pay a $20,000 nonrefundable fee just to apply.

Submitting a letter of intent does not obligate someone to formally apply, the Health Department said. The step is designed to help the department plan for the application review process. The department did not disclose the names of those submitting letters of intent.

"To help ensure a level playing field for all applicants throughout the process, MDH will provide details about applications only as allowed under the state law passed this spring," the department said in a news release.

The Legislature has directed the state Health Department to pick two facilities to grow medical marijuana and process it into non-smokeable forms for patients who suffer from serious conditions, such as AIDS, cancer or multiple sclerosis.

The manufacturers will grow the medical cannabis, process it into pill or liquid form and distribute it through a network of eight dispensaries — four dispensaries per manufacturer — to be set up around Minnesota.

Minnesota won't start giving medical marijuana to patients until at least July 2015.

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