MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) –  Minnesota Department of Health announced it will add two qualifying conditions to the state’s medical cannabis program. The new conditions – chronic pain and age-related macular degeneration – will take effect in August 2020.

MDH also approved two new ways to consume medical cannabis to give patients a variety of options. The first, water-soluble cannabinoid multi-particulates, includes granules, powders and sprinkles. The other, orally dissolving products, includes gum, mints, and dissolving tablets.

The program’s two medical cannabis manufacturers will also double the number of patient cannabis treatment centers to comply with legislation passed during the 2019 Minnesota Legislative Session. Leafline Labs proposed centers in Willmar, Mankato, Golden Valley and Rogers. Minnesota Medical Solutions proposed centers in Woodbury, Blaine, Duluth and Burnsville.

Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm said the changes give patients more options, particularly as concerns over the health impacts of e-cigarettes and vaping rise.

She explained the new qualifying conditions were added to allow patients more treatment options for potentially debilitating conditions. “The generally positive experience patients have had using medical cannabis to treat intractable pain prompted us to add chronic pain as a qualifying condition. Meanwhile, the decision to add age-related macular degeneration was due to a lack of good treatment options for managing symptoms,” she said.

As in years past, MDH used a formal petitioning process to gather public input on the new potential qualifying conditions. Minnesotans submitted petitions during June and July. Afterwards, the process included public comments, a citizen’s review panel, and a set of documents summarizing available research related to medical cannabis for each prospective conditions.

MDH also received petitions for four other conditions: anxiety, insomnia, psoriasis and traumatic brain injury. However the petitions were rejected because these conditions had been proposed previously, and this year’s petitions did not include new scientific evidence.

Under current state rules, patients certified to chronic pain or age-related macular degeneration will become eligible to enroll in the program on July 1, 2020, and receive medical cannabis from the state’s two medical cannabis manufacturers beginning Aug. 1, 2020. As with other qualifying conditions, patients will need advance certification from a Minnesota health care provider.

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