December 1, 2020
Minnesota’s medical cannabis program adds sickle cell disease, chronic vocal or motor tic disorder to list of qualifying medical conditions
The Minnesota Department of Health will add sickle cell disease and chronic vocal or motor tic disorder to its list of qualifying medical conditions for participation in the state’s medical cannabis program.
Under state law, the new qualifying conditions will take effect in August 2021.
As in past years, MDH conducted a formal petitioning process to solicit public input on potential qualifying conditions and delivery methods for medicine. Throughout June and July, Minnesotans submitted petitions. Following that, the process then moved into a public comment period and a public review panel.
Sickle cell disease is a group of inherited red blood cell disorders, affecting mainly people who are Black or African American. One of the health problems sickle cell disease triggers is severe pain, caused when sickle cells get stuck in small blood vessels and block the flow of blood and oxygen to organs in the body.
“Giving sickle cell patients a more direct pathway into the medical cannabis program will permit them a non-opioid option to manage their pain,” said Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm.
Minnesota’s medical cannabis program already has Tourette’s syndrome as one of its qualifying medical conditions. Vocal or motor tic disorder is distinct from Tourette’s syndrome in that patients experience only vocal or motor tics, where people with Tourette’s experience both vocal and motor tics.
Evidence from Tourette’s patients who participate in the program shows that medical cannabis can effectively treat tics. “This change will allow people who have either vocal or motor tics to participate in Minnesota’s medical cannabis program,” she said.
In addition to the two new conditions, MDH considered a petition for anxiety. That petition was rejected, but Commissioner Malcolm said that the agency will commit to a deeper look at the condition in the first part of 2021.
“Anxiety is a broad term for a group of specific disorders,” said Commissioner Malcolm. “We want to dig into specific anxiety disorders more and move forward carefully. The large number of patient testimonials submitted during the petition process tells us there is something there. However, we want to avoid unintended consequences – there is evidence that cannabis use can actually contribute to and make anxiety worse for some people.
“We recognize that this is the third time anxiety has been petitioned for the medical cannabis program, and we thank everyone for their thoughtful comments in support of the petition,” said Commissioner Malcolm.
There were no petitions for new delivery methods this year.
Under state rules, patients certified for sickle cell disease or chronic motor or vocal tic disorder will become eligible to enroll in the state’s medical cannabis program on July 1, 2021, and receive medical cannabis from either of the state’s two medical cannabis manufacturers starting Aug. 1, 2021. As with other qualifying conditions, patients need advance certification from a Minnesota health care provider. More information is available at the Registration Process for Patients website.
When the Minnesota Legislature authorized the creation of the state’s medical cannabis program, the law included nine conditions that qualified a patient to receive medical cannabis. Since then, the list of qualifying conditions has grown to 15. According to state rules, the commissioner of health each year considers whether to add qualifying conditions and delivery methods. The current list of qualifying conditions include:
- 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
- Chronic pain