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Panel advises against allowing 'intractable pain' sufferers to use medical pot

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The panel of medical experts discussing whether patients with "intractable pain" should qualify for medicinal marijuana have recommended against it.

In a report released Wednesday, the 8-person panel voted 5-3 against extending the qualifying conditions for Minnesota's medical pot program so it could be provided for "intractable pain," saying there's not sufficient evidence it could effectively treat such pain, and that there is a potential for the drug to be dangerous to patients.

Right now a limited number of conditions qualify for medical cannabis including HIV/AIDS, ALS, seizures and Crohn’s Disease among others, and the state's health department is considering the expansion following low take-up of medicinal cannabis since it became legal in July.

The panel's recommendation will be submitted to the Department of Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger along with hundreds of comments from patients and medical professionals in response to its consultation – most of which were in favor of allowing such pain sufferers to qualify for medical marijuana.

The state defines intractable pain as:

"A pain state in which the cause of the pain cannot be removed or otherwise treated with the consent of the patient and in which, in the generally accepted course of medical practice, no relief or cure of the cause of the pain is possible, or none has been found after reasonable efforts."

Prior to the final panel meeting, the majority of experts on the body were actually in favor of extending the qualifying conditions, but some of these had changed their mind by the end.

With Ehlinger having the final decision, the panel recommended several restrictions in the event he does go ahead with expanding the program, which according to the Associated Press could triple the number of marijuana customers in Minnesota.

This includes not prescribing it to any "intractable pain" sufferers whose recovery goal is to regain bodily functions, given that cannabis is known to impair functions, as well as ensuring safeguards when prescribing to people with a history of substance abuse or mental health systems likely to be worsened by marijuana.

It suggests disqualifying patients under 21 who are "expected to live a normal life span," patients with a history of psychosis, and those who are pregnant or lactating. It also says marijuana should only be prescribed when other avenues of pain control have been exhausted.

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