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Minnesota Approves Edibles For Medical Cannabis Program

On Wednesday, the Minnesota Department of Health announced that edible cannabis would become available starting in next year. This will give medical marijuana patients an alternative way to get their medication. The agency declined, however, to add anxiety disorder as a qualifying condition for the state’s medical cannabis program.

Under a plan announced by Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm, cannabis edibles in the form of gummies and chews will be an approved delivery method for the state’s medical cannabis program beginning on August 1, 2022.

“Expanding delivery methods to gummies and chews will mean more options for patients who cannot tolerate current available forms of medical cannabis,” Malcolm said on Wednesday in a press release from the agency.

When it launched in 2015, Minnesota’s medical marijuana program was one of the nation’s strictest, with limits placed on the qualifying medical conditions and types of approved cannabis products. There have been more approved products and qualifying conditions since the program’s inception. The current allowed delivery formats include topicals and pills as well as liquids, liquids, orally dissolvable product options, and lozenges. Next year, patients should be able to purchase cannabis flowers.

A rulemaking process will start next month to regulate the labeling, packaging and safety messaging of medical marijuana edibles.

Regulators approve Edibles but decline to add anxiety as a qualifying condition

The state health department also announced on Wednesday that regulators had declined to add anxiety as a qualifying condition under the state’s medical cannabis program. Noting that petitioners have requested that anxiety disorder or panic disorder be added as a qualifying condition every year since 2016, the MDH said it was declining the proposal again “due to a lack of scientific evidence to support effectiveness as well as concerns expressed by health care practitioners.” 

“We received many comments from health care practitioners treating patients with anxiety disorder, and they urged us to not approve it as a qualifying medical condition,” said Malcolm. “We recognize that not everyone has equal access to therapy—which is considered the front-line treatment—but ultimately we concluded that the risk of additional harms to patients outweighed perceived benefits.”

Minnesota’s medical cannabis program had nine approved qualifying conditions when it began, a list that has grown to 17 over the last six years. Qualifying conditions include glaucoma; HIV/AIDS; Tourette syndrome; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS); inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn’s disease; seizures, including those characteristic of epilepsy; severe and persistent muscle spasms, including those characteristic of multiple sclerosis (MS); intractable pain; post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), autism spectrum disorder; obstructive sleep apnea; Alzheimer’s disease; chronic pain; sickle cell disease; and chronic motor or vocal tic disorder.

Patients with terminal illnesses or cancer may qualify, if they have severe or persistent pains; nausea or vomiting; and severe wasting.

Cannabis flower to be available next year

Minnesotan medical cannabis patients are also expected to have access to marijuana flower starting next year. The legislature passed an omnibus bill to improve health and welfare and it was signed by Governor. Tim Walz, May. Patients must have access to dried cannabis flowers by March 1, 2022.

Cannabis advocates argued that medical marijuana’s currently legalized processed forms were more expensive and therefore the change was necessary. The opponents claimed legalization would be achieved by allowing marijuana to be smoked, however Michelle Benson from the state said this was not the intention of the bill.

“It is not our goal to make this a path to legalization,” Benson said earlier this year. “It’s a goal to make this available to people with a medical need who cannot afford it. So, we hope we’ve reached the right balance.”