Cannabis legalization has ramped up in 2021. Even states that decided against legalizing recreational cannabis have moved forward with creating medical marijuana programs. Patients with qualifying conditions can access cannabis legally without fear of legal repercussions. However, figuring out which ailments fall under qualifying conditions is a big problem for many people across the country.
Between terminally ill patients and those who’ve been diagnosed with mental health conditions, cannabis has proven to be an effective medication in treating an assortment of ailments. However, anxiety in Minnesota has become contentious in recent times. According to MPR News, the Minnesota Department of Health shut down anxiety as a qualifying condition for the state’s medical-marijuana program — a stark contrast to its neighboring states like North Dakota.
Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm announced earlier this month when he declared that there had been little evidence proving the benefits of cannabis for patients with anxiety. Malcolm cited insufficient scientific proof to support claims that cannabis can treat anxiety disorder. The state’s Health Commissioner said there’s a possibility of “unintended consequences” related to cannabis and anxiety.
Though hitting a vape pen is not an uncommon treatment for patients suffering from an anxiety disorder, Malcolm said he heard suggestions from health care professionals with experience with cannabis treatment to base his conclusion.
“We received many comments from health care practitioners treating patients with anxiety disorder, and they urged us to not approve it as a qualifying medical condition,” said Malcolm.
However, in North Dakota, Minnesota’s neighboring state, cannabis is an accepted treatment for those who suffer from the disorder. It’s one of the most common conditions across the state.
West Virginia does not have anxiety disorders on its list of qualifying conditions either, but the state recently celebrated the grand openings of its first two medical marijuana dispensaries.
There are currently seventeen qualifying conditions for patients to access medical marijuana across Minnesota. The list includes physical ailments such as cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, Seizures, muscle spasms, and sickle cell disease. Additionally, Minnesotans seeking medical marijuana can also qualify with a diagnosis of PTSD, Autism spectrum disorder, Alzheimer’s, and Obstructive sleep apnea.
Malcolm announced that the state added no new qualifying conditions to the existing list. The state only allowed nine severe symptoms in 2014 when Governor Mark Dayton signed medical marijuana into law.
Though the list of qualifying conditions will not change, Malcolm did provide some good news for current patients seeking alternative consumption methods. There will be a broader choice of infused edibles available in the future, including gummies and chews. Previous products approved for the medical cannabis programs included topicals, powdered mixtures, liquids, pills, vapor oil, and orally ingested medicine.
“Expanding delivery methods to gummies and chews will mean more options for patients who cannot tolerate current available forms of medical cannabis,” Malcolm added.
Another significant change in the works is providing patients with access to flower. Cannabis patients registered in Minnesota can now purchase raw, smokeable cannabis under the Minnesota Legislature’s approval. A medical card is required for medical cannabis purchases, which can be pricey in some states.
A 2020 published study conducted by Washington State University offered a brief look into the effects of using cannabis to treat anxiety disorder. There are several risks, such as developing a psychological dependency and the possibility of increased levels of psychiatric disorders, when using cannabis for mental health disorders. However, WSU’s findings revealed medical cannabis users reported a 50% reduction in depression after consuming cannabis. Meanwhile, those suffering from anxiety and high-stress levels reported a 58% reduction in symptoms after consuming cannabis. The study also revealed that high THC/low CBD levels worked best in the perceived decline of stress symptoms. However, long-time use of cannabis can very well create adverse effects that could exacerbate existing conditions.
Jan Malcolm appears firm on his stance surrounding excluding anxiety on the list of qualifying conditions. His decision also highlights the limited amount of research conducted into cannabis as a form of medicine. Recent laws have opened up the gates for federal agencies to study dispensary cannabis to understand cannabis’ effects on impaired driving. However, these laws need to expand for more comprehensive studies into the medicinal benefits of cannabis.