With the July 1 start date of Minnesota’s medical cannabis program fast approaching, providers and patients alike are signing up with the Minnesota Department of Health to participate in the program.
Numbers from June 1, the first day of registration, through June 7 show that 54 healthcare providers and 27 patients have already been certified by the state’s health department.
Under Minnesota law, for patients to qualify for medical marijuana therapy, they must be diagnosed with an eligible condition by a doctor who has sought and received medical cannabis certification from the health department.
Nine ailments meet state requirements for eligibility. Among them are some better-known diseases, including cancer, glaucoma, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis, but the list also qualifies people who suffer from disorders less often discussed when cannabis use is debated, such as Crohn’s Disease and Tourette Syndrome.
The Minnesota plan differs from medical marijuana programs in other states in that healthcare providers in Minnesota cannot actually prescribe cannabis. Instead, they can only attest that a patient suffers from a disorder that is eligible for medical marijuana therapy. It is then up to the patient to register with the health department to receive cannabis from one of eight state-run pharmacies that will dispense it in the form of oils, pills or liquids. Certain hospitals will also be permitted to dispense the allowable forms of medical cannabis to patients.
Though doctors will not be prescribing cannabis, they will control access to it. Only doctors who have been certified by the state can judge whether a patient is eligible to use cannabis medicines. However, doctors are under no obligation to seek certification. Unfortunately for patients who would like access to cannabis therapy, if their provider is not certified, Minnesota’s health department is not able to refer them to a physician who is.
The 54 healthcare providers who were certified in the first week of registration represent just over half of all applicants. It is not clear why the remainder of providers have not yet been added to the registry, though a health department official speculated that the delay is likely a result of the time required to ensure providers hold proper licensure. Providers who may apply to receive certification include doctors, physician assistants and advanced practice registered nurses.