As Minnesota moves toward the end of 2014, the medical marijuana laws are starting to take effect. Minnesota’s laws have very strict rules with regards to the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. It is restricted to only certain conditions and only two forms will be available; Pill or oil for vaporization.
Health care practitioners will have a limited role in the Minnesota medical marijuana program. Patients will be strictly controlled and monitored, and only limited conditions have been approved for treatment. Furthermore, all medical marijuana will be controlled and distributed only through specific state controlled distribution sites.
Medical Conditions For Marijuana in Minnesota
Minnesota has legalized cannabis for only seven medical conditions. The conditions are cancer, glaucoma, AIDS, Tourette’s syndrome, ALS, epilepsy and Crohn’s disease. Medical marijuana is also available to individuals with a terminal illness with a life expectancy of less than a year who are experiencing pain, suffering, nausea or wasting. The Department of Health can add new medical conditions to the list, but the Minnesota legislature has the power to veto any additions. The first condition that should be added before any other condition is intractable pain. The Commissioner of Health would need to provide a report to the legislature on the reasons why it would qualify for cannabis use in order to add chronic or intractable pain to the list of approved conditions.
Medical providers in Minnesota are not required to participate in the marijuana program. However, a provider who does participate has multiple responsibilities under the law. A participating provider who certifies a patient must continue to follow the patient once they start the program. A patient cannot have a casual relationship with the provider; they must undergo a comprehensive evaluation, including history and physical exam, development of a treatment strategy, determination of a qualifying condition, and be counseled on the risks and benefits of medical marijuana, knowing full-well that this is an experimental treatment. The patient must give informed consent to all aspects of management and be followed regularly to determine if the treatment is effective. Furthermore, their medical records must be shared for research and tracking purposes with the Department of Health. The patient must be re-certified for the program annually.
Medical Marijuana Dosage
The cannabis derivative and dose will be determined by the pharmacists that are associated with the program. They will provide instructions to the distribution centers on the cannabis type and dose to be delivered. The pharmacists with the Department of Health will also be in charge of evaluating data on the forms of medical marijuana available, and the study of the patients and their response to treatment, as well as reviewing the existing scientific data on cannabis.
The program planned for medical marijuana in Minnesota will be a very rigid, structured program for the use of this compound. It is designed to limit the inappropriate use of marijuana for recreational enjoyment. It is also meant to use cannabis as a medication, and to study the patients and its effectiveness in a comprehensive management environment. Hopefully, the program can be implemented and be effective. For now, until more scientific evidence becomes available, chronic pain will not be included in Minnesota’s program.
Thomas Cohn, MD
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