Minnesota legalized medical marijuana 1 year ago, but in that year, there have still been many patients who were unable to qualify for treatment…until now. Minnesota medical marijuana clinics have now been approved to treat patients with chronic pain. Patients suffering from constant chronic pain that hasn’t been able to be treated with regular prescription drugs or traditional therapies will now be allowed to get treatment through the Minnesota medical marijuana program. The expansion of the program is predicted to provide relief to thousands of Minnesota residents.
A Major Relief for Chronic Pain Sufferers
More people die in the state of Minnesota from opioid painkiller overdoses than from homicides. 336 people died from prescription drug overdoses last year in Minnesota and the hope is that this new expansion will provide relief for patients and avoid the fatal consequences of pain medication that doesn’t provide relief. Many patients around the country rave about marijuana’s ability to treat pain better than opioids. According to the StarTribune, Judy Bjerke Severson, a 70 year old woman suffering from fibromyalgia and back surgery complications living with crippling incurable pain, says about the expansion, “I could just cry I’m so excited. I don’t enjoy this life I have right now.”
The Surge for Minnesota Medical Marijuana
Minnesota has some of the tightest marijuana regulations in the country. It can only be bought as pills, oils or vapors. Only 9 serious conditions have qualified to receive treatment until now. Now Minnesota’s health commissioner, Ed Ehlinger has approved intractable pain as a 10th condition, beginning August 1st. 500 patients have signed up for the program since last month, which is 5 times the amount of people who usually sign up. The state expected to be serving 5,000 patients when the program began. Due to the tight regulations and high prices in Minnesota, this hasn’t been the case. Now the number of patients has risen to 1,827 as of last Friday and the influx of new patients is expected to lower the prices for everyone, making it an affordable treatment option.
The Rift Between Health Care Providers and Doctors
Some doctors, clinics and health care providers have blocked patients with one of the 9 qualifying conditions such as epilepsy and cancer, from getting treatment. While the Allina non-profit health system allows their doctors to recommend patients have medical marijuana, its ultimately left to a doctor’s individual discretion and some aren’t very amiable to medical marijuana. This has been problematic for some patients, as they look to find the right health care providers for them.
Kyle Kingsley, the chief executive for Minnesota Medical Solutions, 1 of the 2 state medical marijuana manufacturers, said “The reason why I left a comfortable job … was to help fight the opioid scourge. Medical cannabis is one of the tools that will help fight the crisis.”
The new move is expected to save many lives and improve the living conditions of many Minnesota medical marijuana residents. The next move will be to push for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to be considered a qualifying condition. Maren Schroeder’s patient advocacy group, Sensible Minnesota, has been reaching out to the Minnesota health commissioner Ed Ehlinger on the subject in the hopes that PTSD will be added to the list of qualifying conditions by next year.