Medical Cannabis Becomes Law in Minnesota

[MMA News Now, May 29, 2014] Beginning July 1, 2015, Minnesota residents with one of nine qualifying conditions will be able to access medical cannabis under a new law Gov. Mark Dayton signed on May 29.

Under the law, physicians (as well as physician assistants and APRNs) certify that a patient has one of nine medical conditions. Once the patient has been certified they apply to the Department of Health to enroll in a patient registry and receive their cannabis from one of two approved manufacturers.  

The Minnesota law does not allow smoking of marijuana and only allows it in the form of liquid, oils, or pills - not in the leaf form. If a patient is on the registry the treating physician is required to share information on the patient’s medical condition with the health department for its observational research.

The conditions that are authorized to be treated include: cancer, if the underlying condition or treatment produces one or more of the following: severe or chronic pain, nausea or severe vomiting, or cachexia or severe wasting; glaucoma; HIV/AIDS; Tourette's syndrome; ALS; seizures, including those characteristic of epilepsy; severe and persistent muscle spasms, including those characteristic of multiple sclerosis; Crohn's disease; and terminal illness, with a probable life expectancy of under one year, if the illness or its treatment produces one or more of the following: severe or chronic pain; nausea or severe vomiting; or cachexia or severe wasting.

The law also calls for creating a 23-member task force on medical cannabis therapeutic research. The task force shall consist of four legislators; four consumers or patients enrolled in the registry program, including at least two parents of patients under age 18; four health care providers, including one licensed pharmacist; four law enforcement members; four substance use disorder treatment providers; and the commissioners of health, human services and public safety.

The task force will hold hearings to conduct an assessment that evaluates the impact of the use of medical cannabis and evaluates Minnesota's activities and other states' activities involving medical cannabis, and offer analysis of program design and implementation; the impact on the health care provider community; patient experiences; the impact on the incidence of substance abuse; access to and quality of medical cannabis and medical cannabis products; the impact on law enforcement and prosecutions; public awareness and perception; and any unintended consequences.

During the session, the MMA was able to dissuade legislators from passing an earlier version of the bill that would have placed physicians in the awkward, and illegal, position of certifying that a patient may benefit from the use of this Schedule I drug.

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7 comments on article "Medical Cannabis Becomes Law in Minnesota"


Randall Walker MD

5/29/2014 4:41 PM

Please include information about criminal penalties for driving under the influence of this drug. How can law enforcement screen for the use of this drug if someone is driving while intoxicated by it? What is the blood level, I assume anything greater than zero, that defines intoxication? How can law enforcement require a blood test? If I, or someone in my family, is killed by a driver with this drug in their blood, what recourse do I or they have for civil damages and criminal punishment? How many millions must a marijuana-user/driver be insured for for such damage? If the driver is uninsured, then I will be suing every legislator who voted for this bill.


Randall Walker MD

5/29/2014 4:50 PM

This is a huge loophole: "severe and persistent muscle spasms, including those characteristic of multiple sclerosis" -- it says "including multiple sclerosis -- to gain sympathy and support, but it does not otherwise limit or specify how such a symptomatology needs to be documented, diagnosed or defined. There is a huge group of hypochondriacs and malingerers who complain of chronic muscle spams, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome, for which there is no objective test or biopsy to prove that anything is wrong.

I guarantee that unscrupulous health care providers will soon be opening, on a cash only basis, pseudo-clinics for patients like these, and before long the addicts will be careening down our freeways on jot rides that could kill us all.


knute thorsgard md

5/29/2014 4:50 PM

What are the driving restrictions, if any?


Davve Renner, (MMA staff)

5/30/2014 7:57 AM

Section 3 of the bill (SF 2470) clarifies that the current laws related to driving under the influence of cannibas apply to those who are using medical cannibas. It remains illegal to drive under the influence even if you are using is for medical purposes.


heather forrester

5/29/2014 5:29 PM

I thought that prescribed drugs needed to go through rtc's and be approved by the fda. Why does an illegal substance, with no specific indication beyond that which can be treated by many other approved medications, get to bypass this process? I will not be prescribing this medication at all, ever.


Stuart Borken

5/29/2014 5:54 PM

Typical for Minnesota, they pass a weak law which I am absolutely amazed did not include the provision that it could not be sold on Sundays because you should be in church!


John Parkin M.D.

5/29/2014 7:55 PM

I remain very concerned about politicians being directly involved in the practice of medicine in determining that cannabis is legal and presumed effective treatment for several specific conditions. The lack of good science behind it is apparently of no concern to them. The "therapeutic research" task force of 23 members has only four health care professionals. What a joke ! I wonder what they will do next to legislate medical practice. Snake oil?

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