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Severe pain added to list of conditions for medical marijuana usage in Minnesota

ST. PAUL - Minnesotans with severe pain may be eligible for to use medical marijuana for relief. State Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger Wednesday announced he will add intractable pain to nine specific conditions that qualify for using pills and o...

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State Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger has announced he will add intractable pain to nine specific conditions that qualify for using pills and oil made from the marijuana plant. (REUTERS)

ST. PAUL - Minnesotans with severe pain may be eligible for to use medical marijuana for relief.

State Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger Wednesday announced he will add intractable pain to nine specific conditions that qualify for using pills and oil made from the marijuana plant. Smoking it is not allowed under state law.

The commissioner said that it will be up to medical providers such as doctors to determine if nothing else can relieve pain.

It was not an easy decision, Ehlinger said, because there is little scientific proof that marijuana products help, but they likely will do no greater harm to a patient.

"We in this state want to be compassionate," Ehlinger said, which is why he opted to allow cannabis products to be used to treat pain.

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"Pain management is a difficult process and existing tools are not working well," he added.

While medical marijuana advocates praised the decision, not everyone agreed.

"The Legislature voted to allow the narrowest legalization of marijuana in the country," Rep. Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, said. "Those supporting this bill could have included 'intractable' pain as a qualifying condition, but chose not to."

However, the law did give the health commissioner power to annually add conditions that can be treated with marijuana extracts.

Minnesota legislators in 2014 approved using products of the marijuana plant for nine specific health issues, but left the decision about whether intractable pain -- severe pain that otherwise cannot be treated -- up to the health commissioner.

An advisory committee recently recommended against adding pain, in part because it could influence patients to use marijuana instead of better-tested medications.

Twenty-three states allow marijuana use for some medical problems, with only Minnesota and four others not allowing it for pain.

The Health Department hosted 13 meetings around the state to get public input about whether pain should be added to conditions that can be treated with marijuana products.

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State law allows for a range of illnesses to be treated by marijuana extracts, but does not allow smoking the plant. Health issues that can be treated include glaucoma, AIDS-HIV, Crohn's Disease, seizures, cancer with severe pain, Tourette syndrome, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, severe muscle spasms and terminal illnesses.

Related Topics: HEALTH
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