State Adds Autism, Obstructive Sleep Apnea to Medical Cannabis List

November 30, 2017 10:16 PM

The Minnesota Department of Health has added autism spectrum disorders and obstructive sleep apnea to the list of conditions eligible for the state's medical cannabis program.

Patients with those conditions will be eligible to enroll in the cannabis program beginning July 1 of next year, and to receive medical marijuana from either of the state's manufacturers starting August 1, the health department said. An advance certification from a stat health care provider is required.

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RELATED: 2 Top Officials Leave Minnesota Medical Marijuana Provider

The department said Thursday it petitioned state residents in June and July to solicit public input on potential qualifying conditions. A citizen's review panel and health department staff research summaries were also used prior to the decision being made.

"Any policy decisions about cannabis are difficult due to the relative lack of published scientific evidence," state health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger said. "However, there is increasing evidence for potential benefits of medical cannabis for those with severe autism and obstructive sleep apnea."

Katie Kennedy's 11-year-old son Tyler suffers from severe autism. She said she began treating him with medical marijuana for Tourette's syndrome and found the drug had a significant impact on Tyler's symptoms related to autism.

She testified at the state capitol in October to the health department panel.

"We were able to say, hey, we started using this and we do see a change and this should be one of the tools that we use in treating autism," Kennedy said.

The addition of autism has some still cautious about the treatment, says Autism Society of Minnesota executive directer Ellie Wilson.

"People with autism are not all the same," Wilson said. "We have had members tell us this has made a huge difference in their life or the lives of a loved one. We have also had members tell us this was not the right treatment for them."

Wilson said many who work with people on the autism spectrum would like to see more scientific testing of medical cannabis and its effects on autism symptoms. 

Eight other conditions were considered for addition to the medical marijuana program this year:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Cortico-basal degeneration, 
  • Dementia
  • Endogenous cannabinoid deficiency syndrome
  • Liver disease
  • Nausea 
  • Parkinson's Disease
  • Peripheral neuropathy

The department said in a release Thursday it also considered but did not approve petitions to add cannabis delivery methods that included edibles and vaporizing/smoking actual cannabis flowers.

RELATED: Some Medical Marijuana Patients Scramble to Get Prescriptions

The medical cannabis program was created by the 2014 Minnesota Legislature. The current list of eligible conditions are below:

  • Cancer associated with severe/chronic pain, nausea or severe vomiting, or cachexia or severe wasting
  • Glaucoma
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Tourette's syndrome
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • Seizures, including those characteristic of epilepsy
  • Severe and persistent muscle spasms, including those characteristic of multiple sclerosis
  • Inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn's disease
  • Terminal illness, with a probable life expectancy of less than one year
  • Intractable pain
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Autism spectrum disorders (effective July 1, 2018)
  • Obstructive sleep apnea (effective July 1, 2018)
     

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Michael Oakes, Kirsten Swanson

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