How Minnesota will decide medical marijuana dosages

Sample packaging
A sample of packaging created by Minnesota Medical Solutions. The company is one of two who were chosen from among 12 applicants to grow, process and sell medical cannabis in Minnesota.
Courtesy of Minnesota Medical Solutions

State officials are gathering together research to help guide doctors as they prescribe medical marijuana after the state program launches this summer.

Dr. Tom Arneson, research manager at the state's Office of Medical Cannabis, led a review of the published research on medical marijuana, which will initially guide dosages.

"In some of the diseases, the published research is fairly slim, but in others of the qualifying medical conditions, there's more," Arneson told MPR News' Cathy Wurzer on Thursday. "As a whole, I think there is enough to give some insight into the types of dosages and the types of medications where a person might want to start."

The state is setting up a system to manage the medical marijuana program, which will track patient outcomes to help guide prescriptions in the future. Arneson said it will also track the dosage levels at which patients experience side effects.

"Even in drugs that carry FDA approval, for any individual patient who starts taking a drug, there is an experimental nature in that act too because drugs act differently in different patients," Arneson said.

He said it's important that patients be warned that there may be unexpected risks associated with the prescription of medical marijuana.

Lawmakers passed one of the country's strictest medical marijuana laws earlier this year. The medicine is only available to patients diagnosed with a limited number of conditions including cancer or ALS. The law prohibits smoking of the drug, and requires that it be manufactured in oil or pill form. Two companies were chosen earlier this month to grow and produce the medical cannabis.

The state's medical marijuana program is scheduled to launch on July 1.

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