Two new qualifying conditions for Minnesota's medical marijuana program will be added this coming summer.
In a raft of changes announced by the Minnesota Department of Health on Monday, patients suffering from chronic pain or age-related macular degeneration will qualify for medical marijuana.
Under state law, the new qualifying conditions will take effect in August 2020.
What's more, the state's two medical marijuana manufacturers will double the number of dispensaries across the state, in accordance with legislation passed in the 2019 legislative session.
Leafline Labs intends to open dispensaries in Willmar, Mankato, Golden Valley and Rogers, while Minnesota Medical Solutions wants to open in Woodbury, Blaine, Duluth and Burnsville.
In another change, MDH will make marijuana available in the form of granules/powders and orally-dissolvable products ("such as lozenges, gums, mints, buccal tablets and sublingual tablets"), in an effort to offer an alternative to vaping, amid wider concerns over the health impact of vaping and e-cigarettes.
"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,” Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm said.
Malcolm said that the decision to add chronic pain to the list comes after the "generally positive experience" patients suffering from "intractable pain," which was added in 2016, have had using marijuana.
Four other conditions that had been requested for addition to the medical marijuana list were anxiety, insomnia, psoriasis and traumatic brain injury, but these were not approved as the submissions had previously been put forward, and this year's submissions didn't have any new scientific evidence.
While the changes will expand access to medical marijuana, this Pioneer Press report from earlier this year describes how the program does help patients on the whole, but prescriptions are expensive, sometimes pricing patients out of the program.
The current list of qualifying conditions includes:
Cancer associated with severe/chronic pain, nausea or severe vomiting, or cachexia or severe wasting
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
Post-traumatic stress disorder
Autism spectrum disorders
Obstructive sleep apnea