ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota is expanding the state’s medical marijuana program to include chronic pain and age-related macular degeneration as conditions that can qualify for treatment, state health officials said Monday.

The state Department of Health also said it
would allow more sites where patients can access medical cannabis. The
changes take effect in August, Minnesota Public Radio News reported.

Minnesota’s medical marijuana program began in 2014. Originally, only nine conditions were on the list, but now it covers such conditions as obstructive sleep apnea, post-traumatic stress disorder and cancer.

Change Minnesota, a group trying to change marijuana policy in
Minnesota, sought the addition of chronic pain. A doctor’s diagnosis of
chronic pain will be required. It could be easier to certify than
intractable pain, which was added to the program a few years ago.

Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said the added conditions give more
people more ways to deal with debilitating illness.

“The bottom
line is that people suffering from these serious conditions may be
helped by participating in the program, and we felt it was important to
give them the opportunity to seek that relief,” Malcolm said in a

Maren Schroeder, policy director for Sensible Change
Minnesota, said doctors have been hesitant to certify intractable pain
cases because that carries a specific legal definition by which pain
cannot be removed but only managed and other options have failed to
achieve results.

“This will give doctors a little more comfort in
getting their pain patients into this program as well as helping those
patients qualify,” Schroeder said.

Residents petitioned to include
the new conditions this summer. Those requests were reviewed by a
citizens panel and Health Department staff. Four conditions were
rejected: anxiety, insomnia, psoriasis and traumatic brain injury.

of October, nearly 18,000 patients were certified for the state’s
medical marijuana program. Minnesota’s program is considered relatively
restrictive because patients are not allowed to get marijuana in leaf
form or ingest it through smoking.

Pills, vapors, topical
ointments and liquid gels had been the only forms people could obtain
through licensed manufacturers. Starting next summer, new delivery
methods will include water-soluble cannabinoid, such as powders or
sprinkles, and products such as lozenges, gums, mints and tablets.

addition, LeafLine Labs and Minnesota Medical Solutions — the two
licensed manufacturers — will be allowed to open a combined eight more
centers in Minnesota. The Health Department said the proposed centers
are in Blaine, Burnsville, Duluth, Golden Valley, Mankato, Rogers,
Willmar and Woodbury.

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