It was only a couple of years ago, in 2014, when medical marijuana was finally legalized in Minnesota for patients with any of nine qualifying conditions, allowing the health commissioner to decide whether or not additional conditions should be approved. Since then, the health commissioner has added only two different conditions – intractable pain and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – both after over a year of consideration, while several others were rejected.
Considering how many conditions the health commissioner denied petitions for, you would think that even the most conservative lawmakers would be satisfied with his decisions, and that they would feel he is capable of deciding what should and should not be treated with medical marijuana. Some of the conditions he denied – including insomnia and arthritis – have had studies proving cannabis’ efficiency as a treatment option, but were still denied.
“There is a slant toward expansion of legalization of marijuana, of different ways that you can get marijuana for different stuff,” Dean said. “That’s going to keep expanding until you can smoke it, until it’s legal for recreational use. That’s the glide path we’re on.”
For House Representative Matt Dean, the health commissioner’s discretion so far is still not good enough – and he’s introduced a bill that would remove the commissioner’s power to add qualifying conditions to the list. This would mean that any additional illnesses, diseases, or disorders to be added would need to be done so through legislature – and clearly they don’t intend to see the program expand beyond where it currently stands.
If this bill were to pass, it simply removes the line from the original law that says “or any other medical condition or its treatment approved by the commissioner.” Just by removing that one simple line, they are removing the patient’s ability to petition to have their medical problem added to the list, as well as the commissioner’s ability to approve it.
There is also fear that if lawmakers decided to make this new bill apply retroactively, then patients with intractable pain and PTSD would no longer qualify for medical marijuana – which would cost them legal access to a medicine they had only just begun to have the chance to benefit from.
We have to hope that this bill does not pass – but if many other lawmakers feel the same way that Dean does about medical marijuana and the “path” it’s taking in the state, then it could very well pass. Perhaps lawmakers will decide that the health commissioner’s judgement has been relatively conservative so far and deem this bill unnecessary – at this point only time will tell.