Minnesota allows pain sufferers to use marijuana


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Potentially giving thousands of Minnesota pain sufferers some relief, the state will allow people who suffer intractable pain access to medical marijuana starting next year.

“We, in this state, want to be compassionate,” Minnesota Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger said in announcing the decision on Wednesday.

The decision, which state law gives the commissioner power to make, could greatly expand Minnesota’s medical marijuana law. Since this summer, when the state opened its medical cannabis program, 760 Minnesotans have been certified to use the drug, most of whom suffer from multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, and cancer. Marijuana remains a federally restricted drug.

But the program has been hampered by expensive costs and limited access. Providers and patients believe adding pain to the list of qualified conditions could make it more sustainable.

The change will not come quickly. The state will only allow people who suffer from intractable pain to sign up to receive the drug starting next summer. Only patients who receive permission from their doctors will be allowed to be certified to receive medical marijuana.

The sun shines in on Minnesota Medical Solutions marijuana crops through the green house windows. Photo by Andy Clayton-King

The state law puts other restrictions on marijuana’s use. It can only be distributed in non-leaf form, which means smoking marijuana is not permitted, and can only be obtained from specialized distributors.

The law defines “intractable pain” as a condition that cannot be removed or treated and for which, “no relief or cure of the cause of the pain is possible or none has been found after reasonable efforts.”

Ultimately, Ehlinger, a medical doctor, said the decision on whether marijuana is an appropriate drug will be up to clinicians with knowledge of the potential users.

“This should not be seen as a panacea for pain,” said Ehlinger of medical marijuana.

Still, patients, lawmakers and providers praised the decision. Even Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat who begin his term as a medical marijuana skeptic, said Tuesday that including pain in the list of cannabis elibible decisions was the right one.

“Just from a social compassion standpoint, people who are experiencing intractable pain and believe this is going to be helpful to them, deserve to find out,” the governor said.
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Gov. Tim Walz will have nothing to do with cannabis these days. Days of Dayton are looooong gone..