Minnesota Health Department Eases Medical Pot Regs
Vireo Health’s cannabis facility in Otsego, Minnesota Photography by David Bowman

Minnesota Health Department Eases Medical Pot Regs

The department has approved two new qualifying conditions for the state’s medical cannabis program.

Big changes are coming to Minnesota’s medical cannabis program.

On Monday, the Minnesota Department of Health approved petitions to expand the number of conditions that qualify for the program. Starting August 2020, patients suffering from chronic pain and age-related macular degeneration will be able to obtain prescriptions for medical cannabis.

Each year, the state’s health commissioner reviews petitions to add new qualifying conditions to the program. The Minnesota Legislature initially approved nine conditions in 2014, but that number grew to 14 over the years.

This year, the department of health also received petitions to add anxiety, insomnia, psoriasis, and traumatic brain injury to the list. However, health commissioner Jan Malcolm rejected those petitions because they didn’t present any new scientific evidence, according to a statement from Minnesota Department of Health.

Meanwhile, the department approved two new delivery methods for medical cannabis: water-soluble products, such as powders; and orally dissolvable products, like gums and mints. The changes will help make medical cannabis more easily accessible to more patients, says Dr. Kyle Kingsley, CEO and founder of Minneapolis-based Vireo Health Inc.

“Some patients aren’t able to swallow a pill, so liquid, dissolvable crystals are a better path for them,” he says.

The company has already been selling water-soluble products in Maryland, where they’ve been “well received,” according to Kingsley. Vireo submitted the petition for water-soluble products to the department of health.

The changes to Minnesota’s cannabis program come amid a national debate over the use of vaporizers – another route of delivery for cannabis products. In October, the department of health said at least two Minnesotans died from complications stemming from severe lung injuries associated with vaping.

“We hope the addition of new delivery methods will provide a potential alternative to vaping for some patients,” commissioner Malcolm said in a statement.

At the same time, the number of cannabis treatment centers in the state is growing, too. Under a law passed during the 2019 legislative session, Minnesota’s two medical cannabis manufacturers are permitted to open eight new locations. Minnesota Medical Solutions, a subsidiary of Vireo Health, plans to open new centers in Woodbury, Blaine, Duluth, and Burnsville, while Leafline Labs has proposed new centers in Willmar, Mankato, Golden Valley, and Rogers.

The new centers will double the number of cannabis treatment centers in the state, according to the department of health.

Despite the increase in the treatment centers and qualifying conditions, Minnesota’s medical cannabis program is still more restrictive than several other states. For instance, North Dakota’s program covers a wider range of conditions, such as anxiety disorder, autism, fibromyalgia, and migraines.

In 2017, TCB profiled Minnesota’s two medical cannabis manufacturers.