Next summer, Minnesota will join a growing number of states that allow chronic pain patients to use medical marijuana to ease their symptoms.
This Monday, Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) Commissioner Jan Malcolm announced a number of new expansions to the state's medical marijuana program. Malcolm agreed to approve both chronic pain and age-related macular degeneration — a condition that causes vision to deteriorate over time — as qualifying conditions for medical cannabis. These two new disorders increase the state’s total number of approved health ailments from 14 to 16.
Intractable pain is already a qualifying condition in Minnesota, and about two-thirds of the state's 18,000 registered medical cannabis users are legally using pot to treat this condition. Malcolm explained that “the generally positive experience patients have had using medical cannabis to treat intractable pain prompted us to add chronic pain as a qualifying condition,” RTTNews reports. “Meanwhile, the decision to add age-related macular degeneration was due to a lack of good treatment options for managing symptoms.”
The MDH also received petitions to add anxiety, insomnia, psoriasis, and traumatic brain injury to the list, but they were all rejected. Malcolm explained that all four of these conditions had previously been proposed and rejected, and this year's petitions did not include any additional research proving that cannabis could effectively treat these issues.
In addition to expanding the list of qualifying conditions, the state also added two new approved methods of consumption. Minnesota currently allows patients to use cannabis oils, pills, vape cartridges, and oils, but prohibits smokable and edible weed. The MDH has now decided to add water-soluble cannabinoid granules, powders, or sprinkles, along with orally-soluble products like lozenges, gums, and mints, to that list.
"We hope the addition of new delivery methods will provide a potential alternative to vaping for some patients and that the additional centers will provide more convenient access,” Malcolm said, according to Bring Me The News MN. But although the MDH has already signed off on these new qualifying conditions and delivery methods, state law will not allow them to take effect until next August.
Malcolm also announced that the state was doubling its total number of medical cannabis dispensaries from 8 to 16, in accordance with a new law passed by the state legislature this year. All of the state's dispensaries are currently operated by two licensed medical marijuana manufacturers, Leafline Labs and Minnesota Medical Solutions. These two businesses are now drafting plans to open their 8 new cannabis centers across the state.