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PTSD added to medical cannabis list

An employee wears scrubs and protective sunglasses while pruning a marijuana plant inside the propagation room at LeafLine Labs in the Cottage Grove Business Park. File photo 1 / 2
Plants grow at LeafLine Labs in Cottage Grove. File photo 2 / 2

Post-traumatic stress disorder sufferers can now register for medical cannabis treatment.

The Minnesota Legislature passed a restrictive law in 2014 to allow medical cannabis as treatment for a handful of conditions, and can only be used in pill, liquid or vaporized form. Last summer it became available for sufferers of intractable pain. Starting Aug. 1, Minnesotans with PTSD will also be able to obtain medical marijuana at one of eight cannabis patient centers in Bloomington, Eagan, Hibbing, Minneapolis, Moorhead, Rochester, St. Cloud and St. Paul.

The state's two medical cannabis providers, LeafLine Labs and Minnesota Medical Solutions, saw huge jumps in sales when intractable pain became an applicable condition last summer, but CEOs of the two companies said they don't expect to addition of PTSD to prompt the same kind of growth.

"I think it'll be a modest increase ... I don't think it'll be anywhere near the magnitude of intractable pain," said Kyle Kingsley, CEO of Vireo Health, which owns MinnMed.

The number of patients buying medical cannabis each month more than doubled when intractable pain sales began in August 2016, jumping from 1,000 to over 2,100. LeafLine CEO Andrew Bachman said between 60 and 70 percent of their patients now use treatment for intractable pain.

As of July 7, 10 patients have applied to receive medical cannabis treatment for PTSD.

Bachman said it's a "significantly different" situation from when intractable pain was added, as PTSD can require a mix of treatments and is often paired with other conditions.

From a business perspective, he said, he only expects a small change in sales.

Both Bachman and Kingsley said they look forward to providing extended treatment for those with PTSD, especially veterans.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs found 20 veterans died by suicide every day in 2014, a statistic Kingsley called "unacceptable."

Based on a petition LeafLine wrote, the Legislature also voted to allow topical treatment. Both MinnMed and LeafLine will be offering patches and creams in August.

Other conditions applicable for medical cannabis treatment include symptoms of cancer, glaucoma, HIV/ AIDS, Tourette Syndrome, ALS, seizures, persistent muscle spasms, inflammatory bowel disease and persistent symptoms caused by terminal illness.

Steady growth

Both Bachman and Kingsley said that now two years into business, growth across the state's medical cannabis program has evened out prices for production and sale of their products.

"It's an expensive business to do well and do right," Bachman said. "Any and all patients the better, and the more patients allows the economy of scale. (We're) getting to cheapest per milligram price."

Kingsley said MinnMed is experiencing steady growth of patients and with the business, and that he is "comfortable with (the level of) patient adoption."

Numbers of registered physicians, patients and caregivers continue to rise. Over 6,000 patients are actively enrolled in the medical cannabis program, and there are 7,800 approved patients enrolled. The number of physicians certified to authorize patient's conditions is 915.

"We've seen incredible benefit, incredible stories," Bachman said. "We're honored and humbled by that obligation and opportunity (to care for patients)."