By Steve Elliott
When Minnesota lawmakers passed a medical marijuana law last month, they left out the largest potential group of patients in the state: those with chronic pain. They did so on purpose.
But the debate isn't over, reports John Welsh at MinnPost, and the outcome could determine whether Minnesota's medical marijuana program helps a few thousand people -- or a few hundred thousand.
Medical marijuana advocates got their first victory in the state last month after more than a decade of effort at the Capitol. The new law covers nine conditions, including cancer and epilepsy, with each category expected to generate from 100 to 1,000 patients.
In all, Minnesota estimates there will be 5,000 patients in the program, which is scheduled to begin providing marijuana on July 1, 2015.
In states like Colorado and Oregon, at least 94 percent of medical marijuana patient participants list chronic pain as their qualifying diagnosis. Minnesota officials estimated that adding "intractable pain" to the list of qualifying diagnoses would add about 33,000 patients to the program, but there is some evidence that estimate might be low.
State officials based their estimates on patient participation in Arizona's medical marijuana program, but Arizona has a low participation rate of just 0.7 percent of state residents. In Oregon, the rate is 1.5 percent; in Colorado, the rate is 2.2 percent.