News release: Medical cannabis registration for intractable pain patients begins July 1

News Release
June 30, 2016

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Medical cannabis registration for intractable pain patients begins July 1

Minnesota patients with chronic pain that can’t be controlled well with existing methods of treatment have the option to join the state’s medical cannabis program beginning July 1. The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) added intractable pain to the list of qualifying conditions for the program and added resources to its medical cannabis website to help Minnesota patients understand their options.

All eight of the state’s cannabis patient centers – where patients receive their medical cannabis – are scheduled to be open by July 1, which is the one-year anniversary of medical cannabis availability in Minnesota.

“July 1 marks the start of intractable pain registration and the anniversary of the availability of medical cannabis in Minnesota,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger. “During this first year, Minnesota has succeeded at setting up a medically focused program that provides consistent and quality-controlled cannabis products to patients. According to our early surveys, about 90 percent of Minnesota patients reported some level of benefit.”

During the first year, MDH has not received any reports of serious adverse health events related to the use of medical cannabis.

Once patients with intractable pain are certified as having the condition, they can start receiving medical cannabis at patient cannabis centers starting August 1.

The first step for a patient is to visit a health care practitioner – a doctor, nurse practitioner or physician assistant – who can go to the MDH website and certify the patient has one or more qualifying conditions. Once a provider certifies a patient, the patient can register on the MDH website to receive medical cannabis at one of the state’s eight locations.

Intractable pain, as defined by state law, is a state of pain in which the cause cannot be removed and, according to generally accepted medical practice, the full range of pain management treatments appropriate for the patient have been used without adequate result or with intolerable side effects.

The MDH Office of Medical Cannabis relies on the professional judgment of the certifying health care practitioner as to whether the full range of treatments for an individual patient have been sufficiently used to meet the program’s definition of intractable pain. For example, it is not necessary for a patient to have tried opioid medications. As part of Minnesota’s program, practitioners voluntarily choose whether to certify patients.

Medical cannabis in Minnesota comes in pill or liquid forms – not as a plant for smoking or to eat. The program expects the addition of intractable pain to increase the number of patients using medical cannabis; however, MDH does not have a count of intractable pain patients or an estimate of how many will seek medical cannabis.

For more information, visit MDH’s Medical Cannabis website.

Requests for additional conditions

MDH is currently accepting requests to add new qualifying medical conditions and new medication forms and delivery methods. MDH is authorized to add new qualifying conditions or delivery methods through a public petition process described in state statute and rules adopted in June 2016. MDH will only accept these requests between June 1 and July 31 each year. Requests received outside of these dates will not be reviewed. Those interested in submitting a petition must complete the Minnesota Medical Cannabis Program Petition to Add a Qualifying Medical Condition (PDF) (obsolete, link removed) or Minnesota Medical Cannabis Program Petition to Add an Approved Delivery Method form (PDF). The state’s Medical Cannabis Review Panel will report on the public health benefits and risks of any proposed medical conditions by November 1 each year.


Media inquiries:

Scott Smith
MDH Communications