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Minnesota Adds Pain as a Qualifying Condition to Boost Its Program’s Low Enrollment

After months of consideration, Department of Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger made the executive decision to add intractable pain to the short list of qualifying conditions for Minnesota's medical marijuana program, bumping the total to 10 approved conditions or illnesses.

One of the major motivators for expanding the qualifying conditions was Minnesota's consistently low enrollment rate. The state's pilot program was approved in 2014, but patient registries have barely trickled in due to stringent requirements and high patient costs. There are currently 784 patients registered with Minnesota's Medical Cannabis Registration, but the numbers have been stagnating.

Low patient enrollment has caused issues with supply and demand for the two licensed producers in the state, Minnesota Medical Solutions and LeafLine Labs. Minnesota Medical Solutions opened in August to serve patients, but it was forced to hike its already-steep prices by 15 to 20 percent in order to make ends meet, as well as account for patients that qualify for a low-income discount. Low enrollment also affected production in that the program has not been able to manufacture mass quantities of cannabis products without adequate patient numbers to back up the supply increase.

With the addition of intractable pain as a qualifying condition, the state could see a new influx of patients and increase its demand for cannabis supply, but that could cause problems down the road. The program's strict rules require the two aforementioned licensed producers to limit their supply to pills, oils, and vapors, allowing no exceptions for cannabis flower availability.

In states where medical marijuana is legalized, the number of patients whose qualifying condition is pain generally account for nearly 10 times more patients than any other condition, which means Minnesota's patient count could skyrocket with this latest addition. Will Minnesota be able to keep its supply up with the expected increase in patient demand?