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In what appears to be the most significant program expansion since its launch, Minnesota approved new stores, conditions, and delivery methods for valid medical cardholders. The new rules expanding the medical cannabis program are set to take effect in August 2020. Patients will have more access to medical marijuana than ever before.
New Qualifying Conditions
Minnesota’s health commissioner Jan Malcolm approved two new medical conditions to be added to the state’s current list of qualifying conditions for the use of medical marijuana. The two new conditions approved are chronic pain and macular degeneration, a condition where the central portion of the retina deteriorates and can lead to blindness if not treated.
Intractable pain is the most common condition included in medical marijuana applications. Over two-thirds (18,000) of the state’s medical cannabis users cite intractable pain as their reason for using medical marijuana. Now, patients with chronic pain that has lasted for months don’t have to rely on other types of medication that can have significant negative side effects.
Health commissioner Malcolm said of the recent change, “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.” Minnesota’s current list of qualifying conditions include:
- Cancer associated with severe/chronic pain, nausea, or severe vomiting, or cachexia or severe wasting
- Tourette Syndrome
- Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
- Seizures, including those characteristic of epilepsy
- Severe and persistent muscle spasms, including those characteristic 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
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea
- Alzheimer’s Disease
Although the health commissioner added two new conditions to the list, he rejected petitions to add anxiety, insomnia, traumatic brain injury, and psoriasis to the list of qualifying conditions. Malcolm didn’t approve these conditions because she didn’t believe there was enough scientific evidence to back up the petitions’ claims.
New Delivery Methods
Before the new expansion of the medical cannabis program, doctors were only allowed to recommend cannabis inhalable vapor products, topicals, liquid gels, or pills from just a couple of distributors in Minnesota. Malcolm’s new regulations allow state-licensed dispensaries to carry water-soluble powders, granules, sprinkles, lozenges, buccal tablets, sublingual tablets, and mints. The rules now make discreet micro-dosing even more accessible for patients.
Minnesota medical cannabis users can currently purchase medical marijuana products from one of eight cannabis patient centers primarily located in St. Paul, Minneapolis, Bloomington, Eagan, Rochester, Hibbing, and St. Cloud. Only Leafline Labs and Minnesota Medical Solutions are allowed to operate medical dispensaries.
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Medical cannabis access will be expanded with the addition of new stores with the passing of these new rules. The medical dispensary count will double. Leafline Labs plans to open eight new stores in Blaine, Burnsville, Duluth, Mankato, Willmar, Woodbury, Rogers, and Golden Valley. Minnesota Medical Solutions is set to open new shops in Duluth, Blaine, Burnsville, and Woodbury.
Chronic Pain Addition Increases Cannabis Access
With new additions to the list of qualifying medical conditions, a growing number of Minnesota residents will be able to get their medical cannabis card. Residents must still obtain a doctor’s diagnosis for any of the list of conditions. Chronic pain is any pain that lasts for more than three months. This new addition to the list provides more patient access compared to qualifying for intractable pain, which is pain that can’t be alleviated with other treatments or medications.
Solutions to the Vaping Crisis
Health commissioner Malcolm cited the approval to increase stores and delivery methods as a potential solution to the vaping-related lung injuries that have claimed the lives of two Minnesota residents and affected thousands of others across the nation. Vaping black market products is the suspected cause of the deaths of the Minnesota vape users. New stores and delivery methods increase access to medical cannabis and are an alternative to vapes.
Medical Marijuana Laws in Minnesota
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton signed the Minnesota Medical Cannabis Act on May 29, 2014, making Minnesota the 23rd state to legalize medical cannabis. In 2014, only nine conditions were approved to qualifying a patient to use marijuana medicine. Over the years, other conditions such as intractable pain, PTSD, and obstructive sleep apnea have been added to the list. Here are a few main regulations for medical marijuana users in Minnesota:
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- Medical marijuana patients with a valid medical card are able to purchase a 30-day supply at one time from a state-licensed dispensary.
- Home cultivation is illegal.
- Patients must pay a $200 registration fee to obtain a medical card.
- Minors can use medical marijuana, but not at school.
Minnesota’s newly expanded medical marijuana program can open up access to cannabis-derived products for patients who have chronic pain. Minnesota’s previously restrictive rules have now been loosened, which is a great sign for the state’s future. As lawmakers become more accepting of marijuana reform, Minnesota residents can be hopeful that legalization for adult-use cannabis will come one day. Minnesota Approves New Stores, Conditions, and Delivery Methods and the state is looking forward to the recent updates.
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