Intractable Pain and Medical Marijuana

Marijuana in MinnesotaMedical marijuana for intractable pain is now on the agenda for Minnesota. The commissioner for the Department of Health is now evaluating whether to add intractable pain as a condition that will be included in its medical marijuana program. The commissioner received recommendations against adding pain from the medical advisory committee. There will be a public hearing this week and comments can be sent directly to the Department of Health, at health.cannabis@state.mn.us.

In Minnesota, intractable pain would most likely be handled differently than any other diagnosis for medical marijuana. Already, the medical panel has advised that it be restricted to people over the age of 21. Further, they want to make sure that anyone prescribed is not pregnant and that conventional treatments for pain have already failed.

What is Intractable Pain?

In Minnesota, intractable chronic pain is a legal definition set up by the legislature in the 1990’s. It means pain caused by some medical condition that is unresponsive to normal medical care including medication, physical therapy, and other management. If a patient has intractable pain, then they qualify for the use of opioid medication for management of symptoms. One other component of chronic intractable pain is that it must be certified by two different physicians. Unless new legislation is passed, chronic intractable pain would need to be certified by two physicians, not just one provider in order to qualify for the medical marijuana program.

Over the next month the Minnesota Health Commissioner is going to make a decision on adding intractable pain as a condition for medical marijuana, and it will affect both patients and healthcare providers. If you want to have input on the decision, now is the time. Past history has shown that the most vocal and persuasive voices will influence the decision on what diagnoses are on the list to receive medical marijuana. Mothers with children that had severe seizures were the main force that started the legalization in Minnesota. Patients and medical providers will be the force that determines if intractable pain is added to Minnesota’s list of conditions that are accepted for medical marijuana.

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Thomas Cohn, MD

Interventional pain doctor helping Minnesotans manage back, neck, foot, and other pain. Board-certified in physical medicine and rehabilitation with additional board-certification in pain management from the American Board of Anesthesiology (ABA), the American Board of Interventional Pain Physicians (ABIPP) and the American Board of Pain Medicine (ABPM).

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