MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — More Minnesotans will soon have access to medical marijuana.
The Minnesota Department of Health added post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, as a qualifying condition on Thursday.
The state also gave the green light to allow manufacturers to begin producing topical formulas like lotions and patches, not just liquids and pills.
MDH Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger outlined the changes months in the making.
“PTSD presented the strongest case for potential benefits and a … lack of treatment alternatives,” Dr. Ehlinger said.
Dr. George Komaridis has been treating PTSD for decades, starting in the 1970s with Vietnam veterans. He says he has seen the benefits from pot when he has been made aware his patients were using it.
“It seems to reduce the agitation and the anguish that comes with the trauma,” Dr. Komaridis said.
Patrick McClellan is one of 3,500 Minnesotans in the medical cannabis program.
“It is so cost-prohibitive that none of us can actually get the relief,” McClellan said.
He spends $300 a month to get relief from a rare form of muscular dystrophy.
Advocates had hoped by now patient numbers would be much higher, and manufactures have reported losing millions.
“It ends up a big circle,” McClellan said. “Patients won’t join because of the costs, and the manufacturers won’t lower the price because of the numbers of patients.”
Two years into the program and sustainability is still a question. It is a concern the state says is not its job to worry about.
“My job is to make sure that it is safe, effective and it’s run well,” Dr. Ehlinger said.
PTSD will officially be included in the program in August of 2017. It still will not be easy for military veterans who suffer from PTSD to get access to medical marijuana. Patients need a doctor’s approval, and they will not be able to get that from any Veterans Affairs hospital since the drug is considered illegal under federal guidelines.
Dr. Ehlinger says MDH is not ready to allow medical cannabis to patients suffering from eight other petitioned conditions, like arthritis and depression.