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Minnesota Sees Huge Boost in Medical Marijuana Patients After Pain Added as Eligible Condition

Minnesota recently expanded its list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana to include intractable pain.

Since the 1st of August, Minnesota patients suffering from intractable pain were able to legally purchase medical cannabis through their state’s medical marijuana program. Intractable pain is severe pain that has proven untreatable through traditional means.

The addition of pain to the state’s list of eligible conditions is expected to cause a big boost to the state’s medical marijuana market. Pain accounts for 64 percent of patients in eight combined medical marijuana states, including Minnesota, according to a report published by Marijuana Business Daily. The state’s program brought in an additional 481 medical marijuana patients statewide in July alone.

“Many patients and providers are showing an interest in medical cannabis as a possible treatment for intractable pain,” said Michelle Larson, director of the Minnesota Department of Health Office of Medical Cannabis. “We’ve increased the staffing at our call center and have been receiving hundreds of calls from Minnesotans who have questions about the program.”

With the influx of new patients in July, the program experienced its highest number of newly certified patients in a single month. The total number of approved patients in Minnesota is now up to 1,827. The state also saw an increase in the number of medical professionals that approved patients for marijuana in the month of July, which bumped up to 625 from 605, according to the Office of Medical Cannabis.

Research has shown cannabinoids found in cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), effectively reduce pain and have even shown to be efficacious in treating intractable pain.

“Ideally medical marijuana could replace the opioid use and addiction that’s occurring but once again there aren’t studies to show what the side-effects are what the long term effects are,” said KSTP-TV medical expert Dr. Georgiou.

Opioid pain medications, including Vicodin and Oxycontin, are currently the common go-to for doctors in the treatment of pain, with opioid prescription sales increasing 300 percent since 1999. The painkillers carry a high risk for abuse, addiction, and overdose, with over 1.9 million Americans struggling with a substance abuse disorder involving prescription painkillers two years ago. In Minnesota, the number of people who have died from opioid overdoses rose more than 500 percent since 1999. Even patients who don’t abuse opioids are at risk of overdose. With repeated use, tolerance increases, and patients must increase their doses.

There’s an active nationwide effort to tackle the country’s opiate crisis. Earlier this year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the first time urged doctors to avoid prescribing opiate drugs for pain. Studies suggest that the answer to curbing the opioid problem is to expand the nation’s access to medical marijuana, as using medical cannabis to treat pain was shown to reduce the intake of opioids and thus reduces the risk of abuse or overdose.

Minnesota legalized medical cannabis in 2014. The state’s medical marijuana program allows cannabis in only pill or liquid form, not as an edible or as a smokable plant. Patients seeking medical marijuana in Minnesota must first acquire a recommendation from a licensed doctor, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant. Once a medical professional certifies that a patient is suffering from a qualifying condition, the patient can register on the program’s website and then visit one of the eight dispensaries throughout the state.

To learn more about Minnesota’s medical marijuana laws and qualifying conditions, visit our education page.