December 2, 2019
Medical cannabis program to add chronic pain, macular degeneration as qualifying conditions
Other changes include two new delivery methods and eight more patient centers
The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) today announced it will add chronic pain and age-related macular degeneration as new qualifying conditions for the state’s medical cannabis program. Under state law, the new conditions will take effect in August 2020.
MDH also approved two new delivery methods to give patients more options. The new methods being added are water-soluble cannabinoid multi-particulates (for example, granules, powders and sprinkles) and orally dissolvable products such as lozenges, gums, mints, buccal tablets and sublingual tablets.
The program’s two medical cannabis manufacturers will double the number of patient cannabis treatment centers in accordance with legislation passed during the 2019 Minnesota Legislative Session. These new sites will mean greater access to cannabis treatment centers. The manufacturers selected eight locations for additional centers. Leafline Labs has proposed centers in Willmar, Mankato, Golden Valley and Rogers, while Minnesota Medical Solutions has proposed centers in Woodbury, Blaine, Duluth and Burnsville.
Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm said the changes give patients more options, particularly in light of concerns about potential health impacts of e-cigarettes and vaping.
“We hope the addition of new delivery methods will provide a potential alternative to vaping for some patients and that the additional centers will provide more convenient access,” Commissioner Malcolm said.
Commissioner Malcolm explained that the two new qualifying conditions were added to allow patients more treatment options for conditions that can be debilitating.
“Minnesota’s medical cannabis program tracks patient experiences so we can learn about the real-world benefits and downsides of using medical cannabis for various conditions,” Commissioner Malcolm said. “The generally positive experience patients have had using medical cannabis to treat intractable pain prompted us to add chronic pain as a qualifying condition. Meanwhile, the decision to add age-related macular degeneration was due to a lack of good treatment options for managing symptoms.
“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,” Commissioner Malcolm said.
Adding chronic pain will allow patients with pain to more easily access medical cannabis as an earlier treatment option. In 2016, MDH added intractable pain to the program. As defined by state law, intractable pain is pain whose 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.
As in years past, MDH used a formal petitioning process to solicit public input on potential qualifying conditions. Throughout June and July, Minnesotans submitted petitions to add qualifying conditions. Following this petition period, the process included public comments and a citizens’ review panel. MDH staff also prepared a set of documents summarizing the available research pertaining to the use of medical cannabis for each prospective condition.
In addition to the newly approved conditions, MDH received petitions for four other conditions: anxiety, insomnia, psoriasis and traumatic brain injury. The petitions were rejected because the conditions had been petitioned previously and this year’s petitions did not include new scientific evidence.
Under current state rules, patients certified to chronic pain or age-related macular degeneration will become eligible to enroll in the program on July 1, 2020, and receive medical cannabis from the state’s two medical cannabis manufacturers beginning Aug. 1, 2020. As with other qualifying conditions, patients will need advance certification from a Minnesota health care provider. More details on the process are available on the Medical Cannabis website.
When the 2014 Minnesota Legislature authorized the creation of a medical cannabis program, the law included a set of nine conditions qualifying a person to receive medical cannabis. State rules direct the commissioner of health to consider each year whether to add other qualifying conditions and delivery methods. The current list of qualifying conditions includes:
- Cancer associated with severe/chronic pain, nausea or severe vomiting, or cachexia or severe wasting
- Tourette’s 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
- Autism spectrum disorders
- Obstructive sleep apnea
Currently permitted delivery forms include liquid (including oils), pills, vaporizable liquids or oils, and topical applications. The two new delivery methods will become effective Aug. 1, 2020. Minnesota law does not permit smokable or edible forms of medical cannabis.