Pubdate: Mon, 23 Jun 2014
Source: Post-Bulletin (Rochester, MN)
Copyright: 2014 Post-Bulletin Company, LLC
Author: Jeff Hanse
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal - U.S.)


Medical marijuana is coming to Minnesota next summer.

Rather than joints or other illicit forms of the street drug, medical 
pot will be made into oils, vapors or pills by two Minnesota 
manufacturers to be chosen by the state yet this year.

Those two manufacturers will set up eight distribution centers, or 
dispensaries, between them, spread geographically across the state to 
make patient access easier, said Michael Schommer, communications 
director with the Minnesota Department of Health.

To receive the drugs, patients must be certified as having one of 
several medical conditions outlined in new legislation created by the 
Minnesota Legislature, and signed into law by Gov. Mark Dayton.

Those include glaucoma; HIV/AIDS; cancer or its treatment causing 
severe or chronic pain, nausea, severe vomiting or wasting; 
Tourette's syndrome, ALS; seizures, such as those caused by epilepsy; 
severe and persistent muscle spasms, such as those caused by multiple 
sclerosis; Crohn's disease; terminal illness expected to last less 
than one year, causing severe or chronic pain, nausea, severe 
vomiting or wasting; or "any other medical condition or its 
treatment" approved by the Minnesota health commissioner.

Schommer said patients who fit one of the law's defined categories 
will send a doctor's documentation of diagnosis, along with an 
application, in order to get on the state's medical-marijuana registry.

"If you're on that registry, you would qualify to go to one of the 
dispensaries," he said.

Possession of medical marijuana, if you are listed on the registry as 
a patient, caregiver or vendor, will not be a crime in Minnesota. But 
being on the registry will not legalize possession of bags of raw 
marijuana plant material that is intended for smoking or other illicit uses.

Once the two manufacturers are chosen by the state (the deadline is 
Dec. 1), they will be mandated to begin providing medical cannabis -- 
the state's term for medical marijuana -- by July 1, 2015.

A Pot of Questions

The coming availability of medical marijuana raises a host of 
questions. Is it safe for me to take it? Is it safe for my children? 
What is the procedure to get it?

Some of those questions remain to be answered. The Minnesota 
commissioner of health is directed by state code to review and report 
medical and scientific findings regarding dosages and chemical 
compositions of marijuana-based medicines, and how they are best used 
for the various qualifying medical conditions.

Also, the administrative rules of how the medicine will be prescribed 
to patients are still under construction by the Department of Health. 
The state, in its literature, emphasizes the "experimental nature of 
therapeutic use of medical cannabis." Don't expert your doctor to 
just automatically write you a prescription next July 1.

In fact, if your doctor behaved that way, says a February, 2012 
article about the "therapeutics and politics" of medical marijuana in 
Mayo Clinic Proceedings, he or she could be prosecuted the same way 
as a drug dealer.

What actually is required for you to get medical marijuana in 
Minnesota starting next summer, and for your doctor to legally assist?

Check to see if you have one of the qualifying medical conditions.

Get a doctor to certify your diagnosis for that condition.

Apply to join the registry.

Pay an annual fee of $200 ($50 for patients receiving Social Security 
or medical assistance).

You can only be denied listing on the registry for reasons such as 
not having certification of your diagnosis or for providing false information.

Is It Right for Me?

How do you decide, as a patient, whether it's actually likely to be 
of benefit to try medical marijuana?

Mayo Clinic has posted online a list of medical needs and the level 
of scientific evidence backing use of medical marijuana.

Only two -- chronic pain and multiple sclerosis (MS) -- are rated by 
Mayo as having "good scientific evidence for this use."

None are rated as "strong scientific evidence," while several are 
rated as "unclear scientific evidence," including ALS, chemotherapy 
side effects, epilepsy, glaucoma, schizophrenia and Tourette's syndrome.

Locally, spokesman Bryan Anderson said "Mayo Clinic will be reviewing 
the recently passed legislation from a practice, legal, and research 
perspective, and make determinations as this law moves into 
implementation phase."

So it might be several months before it becomes clear how Mayo 
physicians will handle the situation.

It's also unclear what will happen if a doctor concurs with a medical 
diagnosis, such as MS, but doesn't believe the scientific evidence is 
strong enough to warrant use of medical marijuana -- or disagrees on 
moral grounds with its use.

But health providers are already in preparation mode.

Olmsted Medical Center's Clinical Practice Committee, which 
"researches and recommends clinical care and treatment policies for 
the entire organization" met June 4 to discuss "formulation of an 
official organizational policy statement on medical marijuana," said 
OMC PresidentDr. Kathryn Lombardo.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom