Two people have vaping illnesses in Minnesota medical cannabis program, unclear if vaping sole cause

Updated: October 07, 2019 10:23 PM

The Minnesota Health Department confirmed, for 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, that there are now two confirmed/probable cases of people with respiratory illnesses in the state's medical cannabis program.

In an e-mail, a Health Department spokesperson said "Of Minnesota's 61 cases listed as confirmed/probable, two are enrolled in the medical cannabis program. Both cases also reported vaping illegal THC products."

The Health Department statement also said, "Of the 34 cases under review, we are currently aware of three who are patients in the medical cannabis program.  However, we still need to get more information about those reports and they may, or may not, end up as part of the outbreak."

State Senator, Michelle Benson, (R) Ham Lake, chairs the Health and Human Services Committee, she told KSTP this is the first time, that she knows of, the state has acknowledged there are people in the cannabis program who have become ill with respiratory issues.

Minnesota man says he's sick from vaping

"I do not think It is necessarily a cause for concern, but it is very significant and I am glad to get this information," said Benson.  "It is premature to discuss ending, or suspending, the cannabis program until we get more scientific information, but certainly we need to proceed with caution and make sure patients have the best information possible."

Patrick McLellan is in the medical cannabis program and often lobbies at the state capitol on medical cannabis legislation and uses a vaping pen as a delivery method for his prescription of cannabis.

"I think it is a bit concerning, but also important to know," said McLellan.  "I think this shows there are people in the program who have issues, even if we are not entirely certain if the two are connected, but the state needs to approve the use of the flower in the program because there are no additives, no thinners and no flavorings which makes it a much purer, more natural way to use the medicine it provides.

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The Health Department also said, "Until the causes of the injuries are determined, we cannot give a guarantee of safety to any vaping products. This reflects the fact that people in the medical cannabis program who vape are dealing with serious medical conditions and stopping that treatment, or switching to other forms of treatment should be done with full consideration of benefits and risks."

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Jay Kolls

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