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Minnesota medical cannabis program to add chronic pain, macular degeneration as qualifying conditions

KSTP/Jay Kolls
Updated: December 02, 2019 10:12 PM
Created: December 02, 2019 12:46 PM

Chronic pain and age-related macular degeneration will be added as new qualifying conditions for the state's medical cannabis program, according to the state health department.

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) announced the news Monday, with the new conditions set to take effect in August 2020.

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MDH said it also approved two new delivery methods to give patients more options. Options being water-soluble cannabinoid multi-particulates (granules, powders and sprinkles) and orally dissolvable products (lozenges, gums, mints, buccal tablets and sublingual tablets).

MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm said the department hopes the changes give patients more options, particularly in light of concerns over vaping.

"Minnesota's medical cannabis program tracks patient experiences so we can learn about the real-world benefits and downsides of using medical cannabis for various conditions," Malcolm said in a statement. "The generally positive experience patients have had using medical cannabis to treat intractable pain prompted us to add chronic pain as a qualifying condition. Meanwhile, the decision to add age-related macular degeneration was due to a lack of good treatment options for managing symptoms."

"The bottom line is that people suffering from these serious conditions may be helped by participating in the program, and we felt it was important to give them the opportunity to seek that relief," said Malcolm.

Patrick McClellan lobbies for the medical cannabis program and is a patient suffering from intractable pain. He said this expansion of the program could help a significant number of Minnesotans.

"If you use Centers for Disease Control numbers telling us 20 percent of the U.S. population suffers chronic pain, then you can figure there will be more than 1 million Minnesotans who would have the option to get medical cannabis prescriptions," McClellan said.

McClellan said this is a very good sign for fighting the opioid crisis in Minnesota because it gives more options for the way the medical cannabis is delivered.

"It is very important to offer as many delivery system options as possible," McClellan said.  "The goal is help people gain the quickest relief possible from their pain and affliction and it is important to offer as many options as possible to any opioid prescription."

Vaping could be capitol topic for Minnesota medical cannabis program

The program's two medical cannabis manufacturers will double the number of patient cannabis treatment centers in accordance with legislation passed during the 2019 Minnesota legislative session, with eight locations selected in Willmar, Mankato, Golden Valley, Rogers, Woodbury, Blaine, Duluth, and Burnsville.

Adding chronic pain will allow patients with pain to access medical cannabis as an earlier treatment option more easily. MDH added intractable pain in 2016.

Patients certified to chronic pain or age-related macular degeneration will become eligible to enroll in the program on July 1, 2020, and receive medical cannabis from the state's two medical cannabis manufacturers beginning Aug. 1, 2020, MDH said.

In addition to the newly approved conditions, MDH said it received petitions for four other conditions: anxiety, insomnia, psoriasis, and traumatic brain injury. Ultimately, those petitions were rejected because the conditions had been petitioned previously, and this year's petitions did not include new scientific evidence, the department said.

Nine qualifying conditions were included when the 2014 Minnesota Legislature authorized the creation of the medical cannabis program. The current list of qualifying conditions includes:

  • Cancer-associated with severe/chronic pain, nausea or severe vomiting, or cachexia or severe wasting
  • Glaucoma
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Tourette's syndrome
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • Seizures, including those characteristics of epilepsy
  • Severe and persistent muscle spasms, including those characteristics of multiple sclerosis
  • Inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn's disease
  • Terminal illness, with a probable life expectancy of less than one year
  • Intractable pain
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Alzheimer's

Currently permitted delivery forms in Minnesota to include liquid (including oils), pills, vaporizable liquids or oils and topical applications. The two new delivery methods will become effective Aug. 1, 2020. Minnesota law does not permit smokable or edible forms of medical cannabis.

You can find more information here.


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