Recently, Minnesota’s poorly implemented medical marijuana program continued to exclude people with intractable pain from the program.
For those that don’t know, the definition of ‘intractable pain’ from Wikipedia is:
… severe, constant pain that is not curable by any known means and which causes a bed or house-bound state and early death if not adequately treated…
The common treatments for intractable pain are opioids. Drugs that fall under the opioid classification include, but not limited to: morphine, oxycodone, and codeine. All highly-addictive drugs that have a high potential for dependence and abuse with long-term use. One would think that with the issues of these medications, why exclude marijuana?
Unfortunately, the advisory panel for the Office of Medical Cannabis decided that intractable pain should not included as a condition for therapeutic treatment with cannabis. The reasoning is frustrating, and laughable. I’ll touch on a few of their points. If you want, you can read the whole decision here.
One of the bullets in their decision:
Medical cannabis is not a magic bullet for treating pain
I think most people would agree with that, but that shouldn’t be confused with “it isn’t good for treating pain.”
Panel members expressed concern that patients eligible to use medical cannabis for pain have expectations that it would provide total relief and that such a perception may lead patients to abandon other proven pain management regimens, such as physical therapy.
Panel members agreed that medical cannabis should not be the first line of therapy in treating intractable pain but that it could be an option after exhausting other standard treatments. Such standard treatments include, but are not limited to, physical therapy, approved medications, and addressing psycho-social issues.
Many times throughout advisory panel meetings, panel members cited the lack of scientific knowledge regarding the effectiveness and potential harmful effects of using medical cannabis, such as addiction, abuse, and adverse effects.
Due to the lack of knowledge on the effects of medical cannabis and how to best use it to treat pain, (mentioned above) panel members said providers are wary of prescribing or certifying its use. Panel members cited the recent opioid crisis, where good medications were demonized because prescribers used it to treat pain without knowing its proper uses. Even after studying the information available on medical cannabis, panel members said providers do not feel prepared to certify patients for its use.