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Minnesota Expands Medical Marijuana Use to Pain Patients

Maureen Meehan

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After months of deliberation, Minnesota health officials announced that residents with chronic and intractable pain will be allowed to use medical marijuana starting this August.

Minnesota, which approved medical marijuana in 2014 but with extremely tight restrictions and currently only has 760 registered patients, could see a significant expansion of the state’s enrollment with this decision.

Pot in leaf form is still banned; only two manufacturers make and sell marijuana pills, oils and vapors, which can be purchased at one of the state’s eight dispensaries.

Ed Ehlinger, Department of Health Commissioner, said these tight restrictions, as well as stories from people suffering from constant pain, ultimately outweighed the medical community’s concerns that there was not enough evidence to use medical marijuana to treat pain.

Ehlinger said in a statement that it was a “tough choice,” according to the Sun Herald Tribune.

However, Ehlinger said, “given the strong medical focus of Minnesota’s medical cannabis program and the compelling testimony of hundreds of Minnesotans, it became clear that the right and compassionate choice was to add intractable pain to the program’s list of qualifying conditions.”

He added that there was not enough science to keep this medication from people who need it.

Out of the 24 states where medical marijuana is legal, only five do not include severe, chronic or intractable pain as a qualifying condition.

The expansion should go into effect in August 2016, if lawmakers don’t make changes to it before then.

“I’m so relieved and happy,” said Minnesotan Kim Kelsey, whose 24-year-old son uses MMJ for seizures. “We just hoped and prayed that this would get added because… not having enough patients would mean that we wouldn’t be able to get the medicine for our loved ones.”

Maureen Meehan is a New York-based writer, who has worked as a foreign correspondent for many years.

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