Survey finds MS, epilepsy, cancer top targets for MN medical pot

Multiple sclerosis, cancer and epilepsy are the top conditions Minnesotans hope to treat in the state's new medical marijuana program.

An online, informal survey of 1,361 potential participants in the Minnesota Medical Cannabis program, found about half of potential users of medical cannabis reported their qualifying condition as multiple sclerosis or severe muscle spasms, the Minnesota Department of Health said Monday.

Seventy percent of the Minnesotans responding to the survey said they were likely to register for the medial cannabis program, 24 percent indicated they may register.

The program is expected to begin dispensing medical marijuana July 1.

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According to the department survey, the most common conditions eligible for medical cannabis among respondents were:

• Multiple sclerosis or severe muscle spasms, 51.5 percent

• Cancer, 17.6 percent

• Epilepsy or seizures, 17.5 percent

• Glaucoma, 10.8 percent

• Crohn's disease, 9.3 percent

• Terminal Illness, 7.5 percent

Of the potential candidates who responded to the department survey, 82 percent were 19 to 64 years old, nearly 10 percent were age 18 years or younger, and 8.5 percent were 65 years or older.

More than half of respondents indicated they received public benefits such as Social Security disability or Medicaid, the department said.

Enrollees in public programs have a reduced registration fee of $50 compared to the full fee of $200. Minnesota's medical cannabis program is funded with these fees.

The Health Department estimates as many as 5,000 patients may be certified as eligible for the drug and pursue purchases from one of those two state-sanctioned suppliers.

The department on Monday emphasized the online survey was voluntary and not scientifically representative sample of Minnesota's total population of medical cannabis users.

Still, it "gives us some more information about where potential patients may live and the conditions for which they may seek additional treatment," MDH Assistant Commissioner Manny Munson-Regala said in statement.