Beginning July 1, 2018, patients suffering from obstructive sleep apnea and autism will qualify for medical marijuana use in the state of Minnesota. Patients will be able to enroll immediately, and can begin filling prescriptions starting August 1.
Dr. Ed Ehlinger, Health Department commissioner stated, “Any policy decisions about cannabis are difficult due to the relative lack of published scientific evidence.” Ehlinger then went on to say “However, there is increasing evidence for potential benefits of medical cannabis for those with severe autism and obstructive sleep apnea.”
These conditions were the two selected out of the 10 submitted by petition to the agency, making them the 12th and 13th qualifying conditions for the Minnesota Department of Health program that started in 2014. The process of selection included a public comment period and a citizens’ review panel.
While some may be asking why a condition like Autism would be included in the list of ailments, researchers have seen growing support through clinical trials and research showing cannabis can help treat and reduce some of the more harmful symptoms of the condition.
In a news release by Victoria Grancarich of Minneapolis, it was stated, “Before medical cannabis, my 14-year-old autistic son self-harmed to the point of skull fractures and massive tissue damage. But after using medical cannabis to treat his seizures, all of his self-injury and aggression stopped. The helmet was removed and my son was able to return to school and he is my happy, sweet boy again.”
The decision for sleep apnea patients may have been a bit more complicated, due to how each patient is affected by the current treatments. Dr. Tom Arneson, research manager for the Health Department’s Office of Medical Cannabis stated that continuous positive airway pressure may only be tolerable for half of the sleep apnea patients. This essentially leaves the other half of patients with little help. This is where a prescription for medical marijuana comes in. But, at the end of Arneson’s statements, he says “if someone is able to use CPAP, then there is no reason for them to use cannabis.”
As of September 28, there were 7,022 active patients in Minnesota’s medical marijuana registry. The state currently does not know where that number will land after the policy takes effect on July 1. Currently, the other qualifying conditions for medical marijuana are:
How will the new legislation in Minnesota affect you as a resident of the state?