Minnesota (finally) legalizes marijuana for pain relief

Thousands more Minnesotans might become eligible for medical marijuana.

Thousands more Minnesotans might become eligible for medical marijuana.

Minnesota’s struggling medical marijuana program received a major shot Wednesday when the commissioner of health decided to make pain sufferers eligible.

The pain has to be chronic and incurable, but it would only take a doctor’s diagnosis to get access to the state’s locally grown, lab-tested, medical grade pills and oils. 

“Given the strong medical focus of Minnesota’s medical cannabis program and the compelling testimony of hundreds of Minnesotans, it became clear that the right and compassionate choice was to add intractable pain to the program’s list of qualifying conditions,” health commissioner Ed Ehlinger said.

Ehlinger sided against a state advisory panel that earlier warned against treating something as complex and wide-ranging as “pain” with a drug that hasn’t been extensively researched as an anesthetic.

But from a financial point of view, it was the only choice that made sense.

When the Legislature first legalized medical marijuana in May 2014, it placed huge restrictions on who would qualify. The entire program came to rely on but a few hundred patients, and dispensary prices soared. The result was that most continued to buy illegal weed off the streets anyway.

Now that pain has been added to the list, thousands of Minnesotans are expected to sign up, which means cheaper drugs across the board for everyone. 

Minnesota is the nineteenth state to allow the use of medical cannabis to treat chronic pain.