Minnesota medical cannabis program to include PTSD

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ST. PAUL — Minnesotans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder will be eligible to try medical cannabis starting Aug. 1.

To receive the drug through the program, patients need to visit a health care professional who must then certify to the Minnesota Department of Health that the patients suffer from the condition. Once certified, patients can then register on the state health department's website. Registration for PTSD started July 1.

Before this summer, people who suffer the effects of post-traumatic stress were not eligible for the drug.

But the 2014 state law that created the system that allows Minnesotans access to non-smokable marijuana without fear of state penalties authorizes the state commissioner of health to add qualifying medical conditions to the program.

Last year, after a decision from the health commissioner, people who suffer from intractable pain, as certified by their medical providers, became eligible. This year, the state is adding PTSD.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs gives a sharply negative review of the use of medical marijuana to treat PTSD on its website. But current VA Secretary David Shulkin said this spring that there is "some evidence" the drug may be helpful to veterans, according to reports.

Currently, there are 7,721 Minnesotans registered in the program, according to the state Department of Health.

As of a January report, a majority of those receiving medical cannabis suffered from intractable pain, followed by muscle spasms and cancer. Scott Smith, a health department public information officer, said the department did not have an estimate of the number of people who would enroll who suffer from PTSD.

A National Institute of Mental Health report says that 3.5 percent of the U.S. population suffers from PTSD anxiety in a yearlong period.

Rachel E. Stassen-Berger can be reached at 651-224-5812 and rstassen-berger@ pioneerpress.com, or on Twitter at @rachelsb.