According to a recent Associated Press article No quick decision on medical marijuana for pain Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton’s Commissioner of Health has decided to postpone adding Intractable Pain to Minnesota’s new, legal medical marijuana program. Apparently, Dayton administration officials are setting expectations at the delay being potentially for years. The reason they cite is their fear that they may not be ready for an increased volume of demand should intractable pain be included in the list of medical problems that qualify for medical marijuana in the Minnesota program.
Marijuana has proven an effective treatment for intractable pain — and better than more commonly used narcotic medications. Marijuana provides pain relief and relief from pain-related disability. And it does not kill people or have the other side effects that toxic opioid pain medications have.
With 23 states now having legal medical marijuana — Minnesota being a laggard in this respect — one might wonder: how have other states managed to come up with an adequate, legal supply of marijuana to meet the legitimate demand of the sick and suffering for legal, medical marijuana? One obvious answer could be that only one other of those 23 states has failed to allow the natural, plant-form of marijuana for lawful, medical use. Minnesota could remove that restriction from its law, and so remove steps that would save time, reduce cost, and help more suffering people sooner.
Other possibilities come to mind to more quickly ramp up production of legal marijuana in Minnesota; including authorizing more than two producers, and authorizing legal home grow for qualified medical marijuana patients. These would also reduce the expected high cost of medicine in Minnesota’s medical marijuana program.
Minnesota’s governor was not an enthusiastic supporter of the medical marijuana law that eventually passed last year, but did sign on to a compromise law that is one of the two weakest in the United States today. This news of delay in including intractable pain, could be interpreted by some as more evidence of tepid support for medical marijuana from the Minnesota Governor.
What can be done? The Minnesota legislature could pass additional legislation to strengthen and expand Minnesota’s medical marijuana program. It could also pass the medical necessity defense Bill, to restore fairness for patients facing criminal charges for marijuana. The bill, HF 542 in the Minnesota House and SF 404 in the Minnesota Senate, would give medical marijuana patients the “right to introduce evidence or testimony of a medical need to use, … or [evidence of] a benefit derived from the use” of marijuana or marijuana products.
By: Thomas C. Gallagher, Minneapolis Marijuana Lawyer and Minnesota NORML Board Member.