Minnesota adds sickle cell, vocal and motor tic disorder to medical cannabis program

A cannabis plant grows in the Amsterdam Cannabis College (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

The Minnesota Department of Health has expanded its medical cannabis program to include sickle cell disease and vocal or motor tic disorder patients.

The state says the new qualifying conditions will take effect in August 2021, joining the 15 others that have been approved in past years.

Minnesotans submitted requests for those two conditions in June and July. After that, the process moved into a public comment period and a public review panel before being approved this month.

Sickle Cell Disease is a group of inherited red blood cell disorders, affecting mostly Black or African American people. Sickle Cell triggers severe pain when the cells are stuck in small blood vessels, which block the flow of blood and oxygen to organs in the body.

Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said medical cannabis will keep those same patients from seeking opioid pain management options.

Vocal or motor tic disorder was added this year, even though Tourette’s Syndrome already qualifies. Tourette’s Syndrome patients experience both vocal and motor tics. The Department of Health says it has evidence that Tourette’s patients participating in the medical cannabis program can effectively treat their tics.

Not all petitions submitted this year qualified, however. The Department of Health says a petition for anxiety was rejected this year, but that the agency plans to revisit the application in 2021.

 “Anxiety is a broad term for a group of specific disorders,” said Malcolm. “We want to dig into specific anxiety disorders more and move forward carefully. The large number of patient testimonials submitted during the petition process tells us there is something there. However, we want to avoid unintended consequences – there is evidence that cannabis use can actually contribute to and make anxiety worse for some people.

This year was the third time anxiety was petitioned.

Sickle Cell Disease and Chronic Motor or Vocal Tic Disorder patients can enroll starting July 1, 2021 and receive cannabis beginning in August.

Here is a full list of qualifying conditions for the state’s medical cannabis program:

  • Cancer associated with severe/chronic pain, nausea or severe vomiting, or cachexia or severe wasting
  • Glaucoma
  • Tourette’s syndrome
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • Seizures, including those characteristic of epilepsy
  • Severe and persistent muscle spasms, including those characteristic of multiple sclerosis
  • Inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn’s disease
  • Terminal illness, with a probable life expectancy of less than one year
  • Intractable pain
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Chronic pain