Regulators with the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) announced on Wednesday that cannabis edibles would be available in the state beginning next year, giving medical cannabis patients a new alternative to access their medicine of choice. 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. More qualifying conditions and approved product types have been added since its inception, with current permitted delivery forms including pills, vapor oil, liquids, topicals, powdered mixtures and orally dissolvable products, such as lozenges. Cannabis flower should be available to patients next year.
The health department noted that a rulemaking process to govern the packaging, labeling, safety messaging and testing of medical cannabis edibles will begin next month.
Regulators Approve Edibles, But Decline To Add Anxiety As 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.
Individuals with cancer or a terminal illness with a probable life expectancy of less than one year may also qualify if their condition or its treatment produces one or more symptoms including severe or chronic pain; nausea or severe vomiting; or severe wasting (cachexia).
Cannabis Flower To Be Available Next Year
Cannabis flower is also on track to be made available to Minnesota medical cannabis patients beginning next year. Under a omnibus health and human services bill passed by the legislature and signed into law by Gov. Tim Walz in May, dried cannabis flower must be made available to patients by March 1, 2022.
The change was made at the urging of cannabis advocates, who argued that the currently permitted processed forms of medical cannabis are more costly for patients. Opponents maintained that allowing smokable forms of cannabis would lead to the legalization of recreational marijuana, but state Sen. Michelle Benson said that was not the intent 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.”