Panel Weighs Making More Conditions Eligible for Medical Marijuana Treatment

October 31, 2018 01:34 PM

Panic disorder and opioid addiction are among the conditions that could soon be added to the list of those eligible for treatment by medical marijuana in Minnesota.

Alzheimer's disease and psoriasis are the other two conditions now under consideration by state officials.


RELATED: List of Qualified Conditions for Medical Marijuana Use in Minnesota Grows

The medical cannabis review panel is made up seven members with experience ranging from the medical field to a family member of someone in the program. The group is charged with gauging the risks and benefits of using cannabis for treatment of new conditions.

On Wednesday, experts from the Minnesota Department of Health testified that there aren't clear clinical trials that show whether opioid withdrawal can be eased by the use of medical marijuana.

But doctors who believe it could be beneficial also testified to the panel, saying their patients who currently use medical cannabis for other conditions have experienced success.

"They're going to think that this is about getting high. It is not," said Dr. Jacob Mirman, who practices internal medicine in St. Louis Park.  "My patients don't like getting high."

In 2016, 10,332 people were admitted for treatment of opioid use disorder across the state, according to the state Department of Health.

There were 395 overdose deaths that year, a massive increase from 50 deaths in 2000.

"At one point, the opioids had me to a point where I couldn't eat. I had no appetite," one man said to the panel as he pleaded for another option. "A year ago, I had lost probably about 125 to 150 pounds. I was almost skin and bones. I'm just trying to stay healthy."

The cannabis program does not have a goal of all people quitting opioids as the condition up for consideration requires the specific diagnosis of opioid addiction.

"We don't have a whole lot of research," said Kerstin Lappen, who sits on the panel. "There isn't anything that clearly says 'This is good, this is bad.'"

The panel will make its recommendations to the department of health commissioner by November 1. The commissioner must then make a decision by December 1.

If approved, Minnesota would become one of the first states in the nation to green-light cannabis treatments for both panic and opioid addiction disorders.

The 11 states shown below already include Alzheimer's disease or agitation of Alzheimer's disease as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana.  In some of these states, the medical marijuana program is not yet operational.

Anyone with input can email the panel at


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Katherine Johnson

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