Minnesota Medical Cannabis: One Year Later

Minnesota’s medical cannabis program began distributing medical cannabis to registered patients on July 1, 2015.

Cannabis Manufacturers

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) registered two medical cannabis manufacturers on December 1, 2014. They are responsible for the cultivation, production, and distribution of medical cannabis in the state. The manufacturers are Minnesota Medical Solutions, LLC and LeafLine Labs, LLC. Minnesota Medical Solutions operates distribution facilities, or Cannabis Patient Centers (CPCs), in Minneapolis, Rochester, Moorhead, and Bloomington. LeafLine Labs operates CPCs in Eagan, St. Cloud, Hibbing, and St. Paul.

The below graph displays the total number of patient visits to a CPC that resulted in medical cannabis purchases between July 1, 2015 and June 30, 2016. A clear and steady increase in patient visits is apparent.

Patients

Qualifying patients must be enrolled in the medical cannabis patient registry to be eligible to legally purchase and possess medical cannabis. As part of the application process, a patient’s qualifying medical condition must be certified by a health care practitioner; this qualifying medical condition and the patient must be re-evaluated and re-certified by a health care practitioner every year.

The below graph shows the steady increase in the weekly number of patients enrolled and in active status in the registry. As of June 30, 2016, there are 1520 patients actively enrolled in the patient registry.

patients in registry

Patients must pay an enrollment fee before they are eligible to legally purchase and possess medical cannabis. Minnesota Statutes section 152.35 requires patients to pay a fee of $200 to enroll in the program. Patients who receive government assistance (MN Care, Social Security Disability, Supplemental Security Income, Medicaid/MA and CHAMPVA) qualify for a reduced fee of $50. The below pie chart shows that approximately 57 percent of registered patients to date have qualified for the reduced enrollment fee.

Pie Chart

The qualifying medical conditions are: Cancer or its treatment (must be accompanied by severe or chronic pain, nausea , or severe wasting); Glaucoma; HIV/AIDS; Tourette Syndrome; Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease); Seizures, including those characteristic of epilepsy; Severe and persistent muscle spasms, including those characteristic of multiple sclerosis; Crohn’s Disease; and Terminal Illness with life-expectancy of less than 1 year (must be accompanied by severe or chronic pain, nausea , or severe wasting). Crohn’s Disease was extended to Inflammatory Bowel Disease (including Crohn’s Disease) by statute amendment during the 2016 legislative. Intractable Pain will be added as a qualifying medical condition, effective August 1, 2016.

The below table shows the number of active patients in the patient registry who have been certified as having that qualifying medical condition. The three most frequently certified qualifying conditions are:

  1. Cancer or its treatment
  2. Severe and persistent muscle spasms, including those characteristic of multiple sclerosis
  3. Seizures, including those characteristic of epilepsy

Tab;e

The below graph displays the number of active patients by age and gender. The average age of registered patients is approximately 44 years old, however the average age varies by qualifying medical condition. There are significantly more male active patients than females.

Caregivers

There are two different groups of caregivers in the Minnesota medical cannabis program: designated caregivers and parents or legal guardians acting as caregivers. All caregivers must be enrolled in the patient registry system. A patient’s parent or legal guardian may act as caregiver and be entered in the registry without having to qualify as a designated caregiver. A patient may have both registered designated caregivers and registered parents or legal guardians acting as caregivers.

The law permits patient to have a registered designated caregiver if the patient’s health care practitioner certifies that the patient suffers from a developmental or physical disability that prevents the patient from either self-administering the medication or acquiring the medication from a distribution facility. Registered designated caregivers must pass a criminal background check.

Health Care Practitioners

Health care practitioners who can certify a patient’s qualifying medical condition are Minnesota licensed physicians, physician assistants, and advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). The health care practitioner must be enrolled in the medical cannabis registry before certifying a patient’s qualifying medical condition.

As can be seen in the below line graph, the number of health care practitioners registering with the program continues to increase.

Line Graph

Of the 605 health care practitioners currently approved in the registry system 499 are physicians, 29 are physician assistants, and 77 are APRNs.


CREDIT: The content of this post has been copied or adopted from the Minnesota Department of Health Office of Medical Cannabis’ “Medical Cannabis Program Update – July 2016” (http://www.health.state.mn.us/topics/cannabis/about/update0716.pdf)