The 1st of July marks the completion of the first year of cannabis usage in Minnesota for medical conditions. As we move into Year 2 of legalized medicinal cannabis, Minnesotans will be able to be prescribed cannabis for “intractable pain”. By “intractable pain”, we mean a chronic pain that is incurable by any known means, and causes death if not treated with various opioids.
30 days after this, patients for the first time will be able to access medicinal marijuana from pre-approved dispensaries in MN, namely Leafline and MMS (Minnesota Medical Solutions).
We spoke with a representative of the Minnesota Medical Association who said that he has had dozens of patients come to him with intractable pain who have enquired about the availability of medicinal marijuana to help with this chronic condition. While uptake is expected to be high, whether doctors will be willing to prescribe medicinal marijuana is another thing altogether.
Jim Thompson, from MMA, said that the vast majority of chronic pain doctors in the state are against the widespread rollout for medicinal marijuana, citing many unanswered questions about how effective cannabis is in treating intractable pain.
One of the doctors which supports the rollout of medicinal marijuana said to us “I feel it is the compassionate and the medically correct decision to use medicinal marijuana in the fight against chronic pain. The medical evidence points towards a reduction in the symptoms, and if I can help by prescribing cannabis to patients, I will certainly do so”.
Dr. Bachman, who is the owner of LeafLine Labs, which is one of the authorized dispensaries in Minnesota for medicinal marijuana, says that prescribing marijuana is actually safer than more traditional treatment routes for intractable pain.
Dr Bachman pointed to the fact that there have been tens of thousands of deaths associated with opioid use, but after 5000 years of cannabis usage, no death has ever been attributed to cannabis which means he believes that taking cannabis for pain is the right thing to do.
One statistic Dr Bachman pointed to was that every 20 minutes in the USA, an American dies from an opioid. This is around 1 in every 500 opioid prescriptions which results in death. He says this is like Russian Roulette- and you can see why.
Dr. Reznikoff, an expert who resides in Hennepin County Medical Center, scoffs at this comparison with opioids and cannabis. He says it is very irresponsible to say that we are going to cure opioid deaths with cannabis.
Dr Reznikoff said he would have been against accepting intractable pain into the medicinal marijuana program if he was invited onto the panel, but says he would change his mind if evidence improved over the coming years.
He predicts there will be more conflict between doctors and patients because many doctors will not prescribe cannabis. Whether this happens or not remains to be seen.