News release: MDH medical cannabis survey finds top conditions are multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, and cancer

News Release
February 23, 2015

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MDH medical cannabis survey finds top conditions are multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, and cancer

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has released results of a voluntary, Internet-based survey of 1,361 potential participants in the Minnesota Medical Cannabis program. The survey found about half of potential users of medical cannabis reported their qualifying condition as multiple sclerosis (MS) or severe muscle spasms. The next most common conditions among potentially eligible patients were epilepsy and cancer.

The survey collected responses online from 1,361 Minnesotans. As a voluntary, online survey, it is not a scientifically representative sample of Minnesota's total population of medical cannabis users. Among survey respondents, 70 percent reported they were likely to register for the medical cannabis program, 24 percent indicated they may register, and 7 percent are not planning on registering.

"We're making good progress with the program, and this survey gives us some more information about where potential patients may live and the conditions for which they may seek additional treatment," said MDH Assistant Commissioner Manny Munson-Regala.

The survey also showed that respondents were generally concentrated in Minnesota's population centers across the state, and it suggests that participants in the Medical Cannabis program will come from every corner of Minnesota. Residents from approximately 92 percent of Minnesota's counties participated in the survey. Minnesota's law authorizes eight medical-cannabis dispensing sites when the program formally begins in July of this year. Dispensing sites are currently planned in Eagan, Hibbing, Maple Grove, Minneapolis, Moorhead, Rochester, St. Cloud and St. Paul.

According to the survey, the most common conditions eligible for medical cannabis among respondents included the following.

  • Multiple sclerosis or severe muscle spasms - 51.5 percent.
  • Cancer - 17.6 percent.
  • Epilepsy or seizures - 17.5 percent.
  • Glaucoma - 10.8 percent.
  • Crohn's disease - 9.3 percent.
  • Terminal Illness - 7.5 percent.

Note that percentages do not add up to 100 percent because 15 percent of respondents reported more than one condition.

Of the potential candidates that responded, approximately 9.5 percent of them were age 18 years or younger, 82 percent were 19 to 64 years old, and 8.5 percent were 65 years or older. More than half of respondents, 53.1 percent, indicated they received public benefits such as Social Security disability or Medicaid. Enrollees on public programs have a reduced registration fee of $50 compared to the full fee of $200. Minnesota's medical cannabis program is funded with these fees.

MDH conducted the voluntary survey from January 20 to February 6 to help develop a clearer picture of the scope and nature of patient demand for medical cannabis.

Medical cannabis will be available to Minnesota residents registered with MDH whose health care providers certify them to be suffering from conditions including:

  • Cancer associated with severe/chronic pain, nausea or severe vomiting, or cachexia or severe wasting.
  • Glaucoma.
  • Tourette's syndrome.
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).
  • Seizures, including those characteristic of epilepsy.
  • Severe and persistent muscle spasms, including those characteristic of multiple sclerosis.
  • Crohn's disease.
  • Terminal illness, with a life expectancy of less than one year, if the illness or treatment produces severe/chronic pain, nausea or severe vomiting, cachexia or severe wasting.

The Minnesota Department of Health's Office of Medical Cannabis is on track to provide medical cannabis products to patients by the statutory deadline of July 1, 2015. Medical cannabis will not be available via a pharmacy or through a prescription from a doctor. Instead, patients with one of the qualifying conditions will be eligible to enroll in a patient registry maintained by the state. Patients on this registry will be able to get medical cannabis directly from one of eight dispensaries set up around the state.

Medical cannabis will be provided to patients as a liquid, pill, or vaporized delivery method that does not require the use of dried leaves or plant form. For more information about the medical cannabis program, please visit the MDH medical cannabis website.


Media inquiries:

Scott Smith
MDH Communications