By Tom Bracken, M.D., Mille Lacs Health System
The Minnesota State Legislature has approved legislation that legalizes the use of marijuana (also known as cannabis or THC) for specific medical conditions as of July 1, 2015. There are very specific conditions for which it can be used, and very specific ways in which it will be dispensed and used.
The laws in Minnesota are much different than the laws that were passed governing medical use in California and Colorado. In Minnesota, there are much more specific and limited designations of diagnoses that are covered, and the marijuana that is prescribed is not going to be dispensed as a product to be smoked.
The process in Minnesota will be as follows:
First: A patient who feels they would benefit from using medical marijuana will see their medical provider. If the provider feels they would benefit from use, they can then determine whether the patient has an eligible condition (see below). If so, they can register the patient as eligible with the state website: http://www.health.state.mn.us/topics/cannabis/.
Second: The patient contacts the State of Minnesota via the above website and requests an application. The application is sent to them by email. It is filled out and sent back to the State.
Third: If approved, the patient is given an opportunity to meet with a State Pharmacist. The Pharmacist determines proper dosage and form of cannabis to be given to the patient. (Note that the provider does not prescribe the cannabis or determine the dose).
Patients will need to pay a $200 dollar fee to register with this program; this fee may be decreased for some patients with financial needs. There is a prescription fee for the drug as well; no insurance companies in Minnesota are paying for medical marijuana. Thus, all patients will have significant out of pocket costs for obtaining medical marijuana.
Please note the specific conditions for which cannabis can be dispensed:
- Glaucoma – if the glaucoma is not controlled, not for every patient that has glaucoma.
- Cancer – if needed for treatment of severe or chronic pain, or for treatment of severe nausea and vomiting, or for treatment of severe weight loss.
- HIV and AIDs: for treatment of pain, nausea, vomiting and weight loss.
- Tourette’s syndrome.
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis/Lou Gehrig’s disease.
- Seizures: for treatment of uncontrolled seizures.
- Multiple sclerosis: for patients that have severe spasms.
- Crohn’s disease.
- Terminal illness: for patients with a life expectancy of less than a year AND severe or chronic pain, or for treatment of severe nausea and vomiting, or for treatment of severe weight loss.
It is thus very important to understand that cannabis will only be made available to a very limited number of patients for these specific conditions. Patients with chronic back pain, chronic arthritis, etc., will likely not be eligible as they do not have one of the above diseases.
Minnesota providers are not required to participate in this program; many have chosen not to participate. If they do participate, they are not required to register every patient with a qualifying condition.
The Mille Lacs Health System Medical Staff has been discussing this program and has not made final decisions about policies and procedures regarding medical marijuana. One decision that has been firmly made, however, is that Mille Lacs Health System will only consider registering patients that are already under our care, and living in our service area. We are not going to see patients from outside our practice or from outside our service area solely to help them obtain medical marijuana.
If there are questions regarding the use of medical marijuana in Minnesota, please log on to the Minnesota website: http://www.health.state.mn.us/topics/cannabis/ or schedule an appointment with your family medical provider.
Thomas H. Bracken MD
Mille Lacs Family Health System