Chronic Pain Now A Qualifying Condition For Medical Cannabis In MN
Minnesotans who suffer from chronic pain now have an additional tool in their arsenal for managing it: Medical cannabis.
On Monday, the state officially recognized intractable pain as one of the handful of conditions that qualify patients to use marijuana from a state-approved dispensary. Other existing, qualifying conditions include cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, Tourette’s syndrome, ALS, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease and terminal illnesses.
“This is an absolutely revolutionary day for providers and patients in Minnesota,” said Andrew Bachman, a physician and CEO of LeafLine Labs, one of the two state-approved companies to cultivate and distribute medicinal forms of cannabis. “You could see hope and relief in people’s eyes today.”
The addition of chronic pain to qualifying conditions for the drug has already helped shore up the number of people in the program. The Minnesota Department of Health said that 481 people were signed up as of July 29. That boosts the total enrollment in the program to over 1,800—a nearly 30 percent increase. But that’s still below the 5,000 people the program had originally anticipated.
Bachman said the numbers not meeting state targets weren’t of particular concern because the model here is largely uncharted in the United States.
“The only guarantee in the program is that there are no guarantees,” he said. Still, he noted that with an emphasis on education, more people were becoming aware of and warming to the idea of the program.
“Many patients and providers are showing an interest in medical cannabis as a possible treatment for intractable pain,” Michael Larson, director of the Office of Medical Cannabis at the health department, said in a statement put out in late July. “We’ve … been receiving hundreds of calls from Minnesotans who have questions about the program.”
Boosting enrollment numbers throughout the state could provide Minnesotans with alternatives to opioid-type pain relievers, which have caused a nationwide epidemic of abuse and overdose deaths. Bachman said that states that have adopted medical marijuana programs have seen a 25 percent reduction in prescription opioid deaths.
He said he’d like to see the program expanded to cover other illnesses and said that research is showing cannabis might be a good candidate for treating post-traumatic stress disorder.
Patients who want to qualify for the program need to be certified by a registered doctor—there are now 525 throughout the state—for one of the qualified conditions and sign up with the Department of Health. To get medicinal cannabis, patients need to visit one of just eight dispensaries throughout the state owned by two separate organizations. LeafLine Labs has locations in Eagan, St. Cloud, St. Paul and Hibbing. The other company, Minnesota Medical Solutions, is in Bloomington, Minneapolis, Moorhead and Rochester.