Dec. 1—MANKATO — Minnesotans with obsessive-compulsive disorder or irritable bowel syndrome will be eligible for the state's medical cannabis program starting in July 2023.
The Minnesota Department of Health announced the latest expansion to the program Wednesday.
As a local psychiatric nurse practitioner who certifies people to receive medical cannabis, Amy Haycraft said adding IBS and OCD will help more people access the program.
"I think these are great additions to the diagnoses that they already have approved," she said. "The more people we can serve, the better."
Haycraft opened North Mankato's Harmony Center for medical cannabis certification in June. Minnesota requires a nurse practitioner, physician or physician assistant to certify a qualifying medical condition for participation in the medical program.
From Haycraft's experience, most people seek medical cannabis for pain control after not finding relief from other methods. She gave the example of people with post-traumatic stress disorder reporting positive responses to medical cannabis.
Minnesota's expansion of the program has been gradual since 2015, starting with nine qualifying conditions. The number will rise to 19 once IBS and OCD come into the fold next year.
People with either of the two conditions can enroll in the program starting July 1, 2023, before receiving medical cannabis starting Aug. 1, 2023.
The move will offer more therapy options for the "debilitating" conditions, stated Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm in a release.
Minnesota law tasks the health commissioner with considering what if any qualifying conditions and delivery methods to add to the program each year. Gummies and chews were added as delivery methods in August.
Not all proposed qualifying conditions made the cut this year. Gastroparesis, or delayed gastric emptying, didn't receive approval after research indicated cannabis could make it worse, according to the health department. Opioid use disorder wasn't approved after medical and mental health providers recommended against it, citing a "lack of evidence for its effectiveness and the availability of FDA-approved medications for treatment."
For future consideration, Haycraft hopes to see further coverage of anxiety disorders. So far, PTSD and OCD are the only major types of anxiety disorders in the program.
Adding conditions is one way to improve access, Haycraft said, while having a local certification center and dispensary are others. One of the early barriers when medical cannabis first became legal in Minnesota was how people needed to travel to the Twin Cities area for the nearest dispensary.
Once Rise Dispensary moved into Madison East Center earlier this year, people in the Mankato area haven't had to go as far. State data showed 245 residents in Blue Earth County were in the program in 2021, compared to 460 as of Sept. 30.
Haycraft saw the number of people seeking certification pick up between when Harmony Center opened in June and October, followed by a stabilization since then. Recently she's been trying to get word out to patients with terminal illnesses, as they qualify for medical cannabis and can receive free certifications through her.
Follow Brian Arola @BrianArola