U.S. Supreme Court Rejects Cases Seeking Workers’ Comp for Medical Cannabis

The United States Supreme Court on Tuesday denied petitions to hear two cases challenging Minnesota’s refusal to allow coverage for medical cannabis through the state’s workers’ compensation program. In both cases, workers sought a review of the Minnesota Supreme Court’s decision finding that the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) supersedes state law, resulting in a denial of coverage for medicinal cannabis for the employees’ work-related injuries.

The Supreme Court invited the U.S. Department of Justice to file a brief in the case before making a decision. In its response, the Justice Department agreed with the Minnesota court that the CSA does preempt state law. But attorneys with the Justice Department also argued that the states have not adequately addressed the issue of federal preeminence and urged the Supreme Court to reserve judgment on evolving law.

The case was not the first time a state court had ruled on workers’ compensation coverage for medical pot. In 2014, the New Mexico Court of Appeals approved the reimbursement of claims for medicinal cannabis for work-related injuries. But rulings on similar cases in Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and Minnesota have not been consistent. Courts in New Hampshire, New York, and New Jersey found that state law was not in conflict with the CSA and authorized workers’ compensation claims for medical cannabis. But in Maine, Massachusetts, and Minnesota, judges have ruled that federal law takes precedence.

Is the SCOTUS Decision Bad News?

Attorney Anne Davis, the co-founder of Bennabis Health, a company specializing in affordable medical cannabis access for patients, says that the Supreme Court’s decision to decline to hear the cases is not necessarily a negative outcome for patients.

“While I would’ve loved a decision by the federal government mandating that cannabis is in fact a covered benefit, [the court] deferring to the states could be good in the grand scheme of the industry,” Davis writes in an email to High Times. “The more that the Supreme Court defers to states’ rights, I think the more it helps our growing industry. If the federal government takes the hands-off approach and leaves it to states’ rights, that allows the cannabis industry to grow and expand.”

With states taking the lead on pot reform, Davis believes federal legislation that permits cannabis trade between the states would create the most favorable climate for the industry.

“The problem we’re left to deal with is interstate commerce,” said Davis. “If we can somehow navigate that, then I think state rights having control over the cannabis industry is a much better option than the federal government rescheduling and allowing big Pharma to take control.”

Some advocates for cannabis policy reform had hoped the Supreme Court would weigh in on the Minnesota cases following comments from Justice Clarence Thomas last year indicating he believes the federal prohibition on pot no longer makes sense with so many states passing legislation in conflict with federal law.

“A prohibition on intrastate use or cultivation of marijuana may no longer be necessary or proper to support the federal government’s piecemeal approach,” he wrote.

Unanswered Questions

Commentating on a case the Supreme Court declined to hear in which a Colorado cannabis dispensary challenged federal policy denying standard business deductions for weed companies, Thomas said that a 2005 high court ruling upholding the federal prohibition on cannabis possession may be out of date.

“Federal policies of the past 16 years have greatly undermined its reasoning,” he continued. “The federal government’s current approach is a half-in, half-out regime that simultaneously tolerates and forbids local use of marijuana.”

This week’s action by the U.S. Supreme Court leaves many unanswered questions about the viability of workers’ compensation coverage for medical cannabis. In an analysis of the denial to grant the petitions, The National Law Review wrote that the “Supreme Court’s decision to remain on the sidelines of the debate over marijuana legalization is disappointing to many who were hoping to see the high court help to break the logjam in Congress. The decision also leaves in place the clear conflict over workers’ compensation reimbursement of medical cannabis in state court decisions and facilitates the potential for further conflict as this issue continues to percolate throughout the country.”

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Simply Crafted CBD’s Potent Promise

Simply Crafted is on a mission to provide the best possible hemp-derived products at an affordable price. The Minnesota-based company is home to the state’s largest selection of high-quality smokable hemp flower and a range of other hemp-derived CBD products that focus on supporting customers through every step of their wellness journey.

Simply Crafted believes that the healing power of hemp should be accessible to everyone. To that end, the company was founded in 2019 to provide natural remedies to help with an array of ailments. They focus on developing products that are full-spectrum and contain minor cannabinoids while maximizing terpene retention during the extraction process.

“We believe hemp flower, CBD and other industrial hemp-derived products should be sold responsibly and ethically,” Amanda Stead, founder of Simply Crafted said in a press release.

 “That’s why we rigorously test all of our flower and hemp products to ensure they’re in full compliance with the 2018 Farm Bill.”

Simply Crafted CBD Products

Simply Crafted works with local sustainable and organic farms to ensure only premium hemp flower is used to create its range of THC and CBD products, including gummies, pre-rolls, vape pens and water-soluble syrups all designed to meet your health and wellness needs.

The brand also offers a wide range of some of the most potent delta-8 edibles currently on the market. The 2018 Farm Bill made hemp and hemp-derived cannabinoids like delta-9 and delta-8 THC legal in all 50 states as long as the product contains at or below 0.3% THC.

High Spectrum CBD + THC Hemp Gummies

Simply Crafted CBD and THC gummies will satisfy your cravings for sweets and potent highs. These candies are unique in that each one contains a hefty dose of 10 mg of hemp-derived THC.

You might be wondering how the gummies can be so potent while pertaining to the aforementioned legal THC amounts. It’s simple math, really. Simply Crafted infuses THC from locally sourced organic hemp into its gummies that weigh in at 4500 mg each (10mg of THC in a gummy that weighs 4500 mg means that there’s far less than 0.3% THC content per gummy). And they didn’t stop there—each gummy is also infused with 10mg of CBD to round out the efficacy of the gummy and provide added therapeutic benefits.

Each pack of delta-9 THC and CBD High Spectrum Hemp Gummies contains 10 gummies with varying delicious and all-natural flavors, such as blackberry, peach and watermelon.

Delta-8 THC Syrup

Cannabis aficionados and the canna-curious alike will love this game-changing syrup. Packing a potent 1000 mg of THC, this all-natural syrup is infused with nano-encapsulated and water-soluble delta-8 THC, making it perfect for mixing into any drink, or for creating your own cannabis cocktails.

Delta-8 products have taken the cannabis industry by storm. The naturally occurring cannabinoid is produced as a byproduct of “regular” THC, also known as delta-9 THC. When delta-9 THC is destroyed or degraded by the sun or the passage of time, it might transform into delta-8 THC. The key distinction between delta-8 and delta-9 THC is that delta-8 feels more like THC light. That is, it has the same effects of THC—euphoria, relaxation and overall mood enhancer—but on a more pared-back level.

The customizable dosage of the Simply Crafted Delta-8 THC Syrup makes it perfect for all levels of cannabis experience. Note that high bioavailability and rapid absorption will have you feeling the effects quicker, reducing the risk of over-consumption. The syrup is available in four flavors, including raspberrylemonmango and sugar-free.

Giving Back

One of the Simply Crafted brand pillars is educating customers and the wider community, and advocating for cannabis law reform. The company proudly supports NORML and the Last Prisoner Project in their endeavors to change US cannabis policies and is a member of the National Cannabis Industry Association and the Hemp Industries Association.

Simply Crafted is your one-stop shop for vapes, glass, accessories and a huge selection of unique CBD, CBG, CBN, delta-8 and hemp-derived delta-9 THC products. All products are rigorously third-party tested in federally regulated, ISO certified labs to give customers complete peace of mind. Simply Crafted also offers a 100% money-back guarantee. This means you can buy delta-8 edibles and more from its Minnesota store, or online if you are out state.

“Our passion for excellence has driven us from the beginning, and continues to drive us into the future,” Stead said.

Use promo code CANNABISNOW to save 30% on your Simply Crafted products.

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Catholic Church Against Cannabis Legalization in Minnesota

The Bible is life’s skeleton key: a document that, in the right (or wrong) hands, can be useful for justifying (or condemning) just about anything. That latest interpretation of divine will is why the Catholic Church opposes marijuana legalization in Minnesota.

Last year, with support from Gov. Tim Walz, a legalization bill passed the Democratic Party-controlled state House. Getting through the Republican majority state Senate will require support from reluctant Republicans—and will have to survive opposition from a coalition called Minnesotans Against Marijuana Legalization, which consists of the state police officers’ union, truckers and the Minnesota Catholic Conference (MCC), the Church’s policy shop.

Special Coalition Echoes Republican Cannabis Fears

The MCC’s stance against cannabis legalization follows other Catholic organizations in other states standing against legalization. In 2018, Michigan’s Catholic Church urged voters to reject that state’s Proposal 1. (Voters didn’t listen.) In Canada, where the national government legalized cannabis in 2018, the Church at least signaled tepid support for medical cannabis “when properly dispensed for therapeutic purposes,” but spoke out against using cannabis for “deliberate intoxication.” (The Church has yet to receive the “cannabis as wellness product” memo.)

The Church has a losing record, but fortune may be kinder in Minnesota, where the Catholic Church appears to be taking the lead against cannabis legalization. At a January press conference announcing the launch of Minnesotans Against Marijuana Legalization, it was the Catholic Conference’s Ryan Hamilton who condemned the legalization bill as not “a justice bill, [but] a marijuana commercialization bill,” according to the Associated Press

As for why legalization is bad, opponents brought up all the usual bugaboos—more people driving stoned, more people failing drug tests and thus unable to work—but, in a departure from the usual anti-legalization script, with the additional flavor of the holy word. “Our direction on this issue comes from the pope himself,” Hamilton said in an interview published with The Catholic Spirit. 

Does God Really Condemn Weed?

Why does God think weed is bad? In lieu of a statement, Katherine Szepieniec, a spokesperson for the Minnesota Catholic Conference, directed Cannabis Now to a 2014 TIME magazine article, in which Pope Francis condemned legalization of any drug—a position the Church has consistently held since 2001. 

“Attempts, however limited, to legalize so-called ‘recreational drugs,’ aren’t only highly questionable from a legislative standpoint, but they fail to produce the desired effects,” the Pope said then. Let me state this in the clearest terms possible: The problem of drug use isn’t solved with drugs! Drug addiction is an evil, and with evil there can be no yielding or compromise.” 

According to TIME, Pope Francis’s main problem with drugs is that they create dependencies that “both hurt relationships and trap people in poverty.” That may be true in certain cases—cannabis addiction is a real thing and a real problem for the people who experience it—but it’s also true that cannabis prohibition creates problems, including impoverishment and incarceration, and for no other reason than a man-made law. 

What does God—or the Pope, or the Minnesota Catholic Conference—think about people using weed to throw other people in jail or reduce their economic vitality? The wrongs of the War on Drugs, racially biased drug arrests and impoverishment of communities wasn’t something either Pope Francis, the Canadian bishops or the Michigan Catholic Conference addressed. And to those questions, Szepieniec didn’t respond.

The Church has come out against drug use before—only to change its mind when convenient. According to Sanho Tree, the director of the Drug Policy Project at the think-tank Institute for Policy Studies, the Catholic Church banned the practice of coca-leaf chewing in what is now modern-day Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and other countries high in the Andes Mountains—or at least it did until silver mines were discovered at elevations of 13,000 feet and above. The Spanish settlers (and the Church) soon found out that indigenous coerced labor couldn’t function at such high altitudes without chewing coca leaves—and all of a sudden, coca use was OK again.

Will the Church adopt a softer stance on cannabis legalization, or perhaps endorse decriminalization as an alternative to the status quo that’s undeniably caused so many earthly problems? Unlikely. In his interview with the Catholic Spirit, MCC’s Hamilton said that the Minnesota Church will continue “standing up against an industry that has proven to do more harm than good to the poor and vulnerable and the common good.”

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Medicinal Cannabis Flower Sales Begin In Minnesota

Sales of medicinal cannabis flower began in Minnesota on Monday, giving the state’s medical marijuana patients a new and more affordable option to access their medicine of choice. The Minnesota Department of Health announced in February that cannabis flower would be added to the state’s medical marijuana program, which until this week only permitted patients to use processed cannabis products such as extracts, distillates, capsules, and topicals.

Chris Tholkes, the director of Minnesota’s Office of Medical Cannabis, said that the addition of cannabis flower was made primarily to make medical marijuana products more affordable for patients. With manufacturing costs included in the cost of processed cannabis products, they are generally more expensive than dried and cured cannabis flower. Regulators expect the addition of cannabis flower to the medical marijuana program to result in a spike in the number of registered patients.

“It gives patients a much more affordable access point to the medicine that cannabis provides,” said Dr. Kyle Kingsley, the CEO of Vireo Health of Minnesota. “Many patients switching from our more standard products to flower will be able to save about 50 percent on a monthly basis to treat their various medical conditions.”

Patricia Gates was one of the first patients to purchase cannabis flower at the Green Goods medical dispensary in downtown Minneapolis on Monday. She agreed that the new option is much more affordable, saying the change will significantly impact her monthly budget.

“So this is going to save me probably upwards of 400 or more,” Gates told local media. “So I see this as a huge blessing … huge blessing!”

Gates had a shingles infection in her ear in 2017 that resulted in Ramsy Hunt syndrome, a condition that causes her constant pain and has left half of her face paralyzed. Before beginning treatment with medicinal cannabis oil and tablets two years ago, she was taking 18 daily prescriptions. Cannabis is much more effective, but a full month’s supply cost $800, an amount unaffordable for Gates. As a result, she often had to make do with less.

“This particular chemical has literally saved my life every day since June of 2019 when I was certified on the registry,” said Gates.

“This is really exciting for cannabis patients,” she added. “I’m not even kidding—this is, like, huge!”

Minnesota Patient Roster Expected to Spike

Based on the experience of other states with legal cannabis, the health department said last month that it expects patient enrollment in the medical marijuana program, which currently stands at about 30,000 patients, to likely double or even triple. The agency cited an October 2021 survey of registered patients in which 71 percent of respondents said they were either very likely or somewhat likely to try smokable cannabis flower if it was made available.

“We did a price point study in 2019, and the average cost for a patient in a month is a little over $300,” said Tholkes. “I think we’re going to see a very sharp increase now that we have lowered the cost for folks.”

Under the new regulations, medical dispensaries will offer pre-packaged, dried cannabis flower and pre-rolled joints in a variety of strains and cannabinoid potency levels. Registered patients will be able to purchase up to a 90-day supply of cannabis at one time. Before purchasing cannabis flower, however, patients must first complete a consultation with a medical dispensary pharmacist to change the type of cannabis they receive. Patients have the option of either in-person or virtual consultations to satisfy the requirement.

“In preparation for the change, registered patients interested in smokable cannabis can make an appointment for a consultation with a medical cannabis dispensary pharmacist beginning February 1, so they will be pre-approved to buy pre-packaged dried flower and pre-rolls once available,” the department of health wrote in its statement from last month’s announcement of the change. 

Smokable cannabis flower will only be available to patients and caregivers aged 21 and older who are registered with the state’s medical cannabis program. Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm urged patients who are considering switching to cannabis flower to seek the advice of a health care professional before making the change.

“Patients need to weigh the risks of smoking medical cannabis, including those related to secondhand smoke and lung health, with any potential benefits,” said Malcolm. “Smokable cannabis may not be right for everyone; patients should have a conversation with their health care practitioner for guidance.”

The Minnesota Department of Health also announced last month that medical patients will have another new option later this year, noting that edible cannabis products including gummies and chews will become available on August 1. The change in regulations was made last year during an annual petition and comment process that the MDH uses to solicit public input on potential additions to qualifying medical conditions and cannabis delivery methods.

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Smokable Medical Cannabis Coming to Minnesota in March

Medical cannabis patients in Minnesota will see smokable cannabis flower in licensed retailers beginning next month, according to an announcement from state regulators. The Minnesota Department of Health said in a statement on Tuesday that the state’s medical cannabis dispensaries will be able to offer dried cannabis flower on March 1.

Dispensaries will offer pre-packaged dried cannabis flower and pre-rolled joints in a variety of strains and cannabinoid potency levels. Registered patients will be able to purchase up to a 90-day supply of cannabis at one time. Previously, state regulations only permitted patients to use processed cannabis products such as extracts, distillates, capsules and topicals.

It won’t be as easy as visiting a dispensary and picking out a favorite strain of bud, however. Under Minnesota’s medical cannabis regulations, patients must first complete a consultation with a medical cannabis dispensary pharmacist to change the type of medical marijuana they receive. 

“In preparation for the change, registered patients interested in smokable cannabis can make an appointment for a consultation with a medical cannabis dispensary pharmacist beginning Feb. 1 so they will be pre-approved to buy pre-packaged dried flower and pre-rolls once available,” the health department wrote in its statement. Patients have the option of either in-person or virtual consultations to satisfy the requirement.

Smokable cannabis flower will only be available to patients and caregivers ages 21 and older who are registered with the state’s medical cannabis program. Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm urged patients who are considering switching to cannabis flower to seek the advice of a health care professional before making the change.

“Patients need to weigh the risks of smoking medical cannabis, including those related to secondhand smoke and lung health, with any potential benefits,” said Malcolm. “Smokable cannabis may not be right for everyone; patients should have a conversation with their health care practitioner for guidance.”

Officials Expect Spike in Number of Minnesota Medical Cannabis Patients

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) expects the number of registered medical cannabis patients to double or even triple with the addition of smokable cannabis flower to the program. The health department cited an October 2021 survey of registered patients in which 71 percent of respondents said they were either very likely or somewhat likely to try smokable cannabis flower if it was made available.

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) noted in a statement that Minnesota is one of few states with legal medical marijuana that do not allow herbal forms of cannabis. The cannabis policy reform advocacy group also reiterated its long-held opinion that medical marijuana patients should have access to cannabis flower.

“Limiting patients’ options to extracted oral formulations is not in their best interests,” NORML wrote. “Herbal cannabis contains more than 100 distinct cannabinoids (unique physiologically active components in the plant), many of which act synergistically with one another.”

The new addition of cannabis flower to the medical marijuana products available to patients in Minnesota was made possible by a bill passed by lawmakers last year. Supporters of the bipartisan legislation said that the permitted products were too expensive for some patients. 

“It will make this more economically viable and more accessible to families,” Republican Senator Michelle Benson said at the time.

The legislation passed last year was the most substantive change to Minnesota’s medical cannabis program since it launched in 2014. The measure also added Crohn’s disease, some cancers, HIV, seizures and intractable pain as qualifying medical conditions to participate in the program.

The MDH also noted that patients will have another new option later this year when edible cannabis products including gummies and chews become available on August 1. The change was made last year during an annual petition and comment process that MDH uses to solicit public input on potential additions to qualifying medical conditions and cannabis delivery methods.

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Minnesota Groups Bind Together to Oppose Legal Cannabis

With Minnesota set to become the next front in the battle over cannabis legalization, a coalition of opponents is banding together to keep prohibition in place.

Under the straightforward name of “Minnesotans Against Marijuana Legalization,” the coalition “consists of the Minnesota Trucking Association, the state’s police and peace officers association and the Minnesota Catholic Conference, a policy arm of the Catholic Church of Minnesota, among others,” according to the Associated Press.

The group of likeminded, anti-pot groups is targeting a bill that passed the state House of Representatives last May. That bill would have legalized recreational pot use for adults in Minnesota, while also expunging previous low-level cannabis-related convictions.  

It also would have created “a responsible regulatory structure focused on developing micro-businesses and a craft market… fund[ed] public health awareness, youth access prevention and substance abuse treatment; provide[d] grants, loans, technical assistance and training for small businesses; require[d] testing and labeling of products; restrict[ed] packaging based on dosage size; and allow[ed] limited home grow abilities,” according to a press release last year from Minnesota Democrats.

But after passing the Democratic-controlled House, the legislation went nowhere in the state Senate, where Republicans hold the majority.

Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Ryan Hamilton of the Minnesota Catholic Conference said that the “marijuana bill that passed the Minnesota House last session wasn’t a justice bill, it was a marijuana commercialization bill.”

“As we’ve seen from other states that have opened the doors for the marijuana industry, the promises made to justify marijuana legalization rarely come true, particularly for communities of color,” Hamilton said, as quoted by the Associated Press.

The Minnesota legislative session is slated to convene on January 1, and as the Associated Press noted, the bill that passed the state House last May “is technically still alive, though it’s unclear whether Republicans in the Senate will take up the measure.”

The author of that bill, House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, is one of the most vocal advocates of marijuana legalization among lawmakers in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

“The failed criminalization of cannabis has resulted in a legacy of racial injustice that can no longer go unaddressed,” Winkler said in a statement after the bill was introduced last year. “Adults deserve the freedom to decide whether to use cannabis, and our state government should play an important role in addressing legitimate concerns around youth access, public health, and road safety. Veterans and Minnesotans with serious illnesses like PTSD deserve better access to our medical program, which is not working well for most people. It’s time to legalize, expunge, and regulate.”

According to the Associated Press, Winkler “told the Minnesota Hemp Growers Cooperative at an event on Wednesday [that] his goal is to reexamine parts of the bill this session to improve the proposal and attempt to get senators on board,” but he acknowledged its outlook in the state Senate is “up in the air.”

After Winkler introduced his bill in the state House last year, Republicans in the legislature were dismissive. 

Paul Gazelka, the GOP leader in the state Senate at the time, said at the time that he “would not consider legalizing recreational marijuana as a Minnesota priority.” 

Gazelka stepped down as majority leader in September and is now running to challenge Democratic Governor Tim Walz in this year’s gubernatorial race. It could set the stage for legalization to emerge as a dominant issue in the campaign, with Walz a full-throated supporter of ending pot prohibition. 

“I support legalizing marijuana for adult recreational use by developing a system of taxation, guaranteeing that it is Minnesota grown, and expunging the records of Minnesotans convicted of marijuana crimes,” Walz said when he ran for governor in 2018.

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Minnesota Approves Edibles For Medical Cannabis Program

Regulators with the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) announced on Wednesday that cannabis edibles would be available in the state beginning next year, giving medical cannabis patients a new alternative to access their medicine of choice. The agency declined, however, to add anxiety disorder as a qualifying condition for the state’s medical cannabis program.

Under a plan announced by Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm, cannabis edibles in the form of gummies and chews will be an approved delivery method for the state’s medical cannabis program beginning on August 1, 2022.

“Expanding delivery methods to gummies and chews will mean more options for patients who cannot tolerate current available forms of medical cannabis,” Malcolm said on Wednesday in a press release from the agency.

When it launched in 2015, Minnesota’s medical marijuana program was one of the nation’s strictest, with limits placed on the qualifying medical conditions and types of approved cannabis products. More qualifying conditions and approved product types have been added since its inception, with current permitted delivery forms including pills, vapor oil, liquids, topicals, powdered mixtures and orally dissolvable products, such as lozenges. Cannabis flower should be available to patients next year.

The health department noted that a rulemaking process to govern the packaging, labeling, safety messaging and testing of medical cannabis edibles will begin next month.

Regulators Approve Edibles, But Decline To Add Anxiety As Qualifying Condition

The state health department also announced on Wednesday that regulators had declined to add anxiety as a qualifying condition under the state’s medical cannabis program. Noting that petitioners have requested that anxiety disorder or panic disorder be added as a qualifying condition every year since 2016, the MDH said it was declining the proposal again “due to a lack of scientific evidence to support effectiveness as well as concerns expressed by health care practitioners.” 

“We received many comments from health care practitioners treating patients with anxiety disorder, and they urged us to not approve it as a qualifying medical condition,” said Malcolm. “We recognize that not everyone has equal access to therapy—which is considered the front-line treatment—but ultimately we concluded that the risk of additional harms to patients outweighed perceived benefits.”

Minnesota’s medical cannabis program had nine approved qualifying conditions when it began, a list that has grown to 17 over the last six years. Qualifying conditions include glaucoma; HIV/AIDS; Tourette syndrome; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS); inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn’s disease; seizures, including those characteristic of epilepsy; severe and persistent muscle spasms, including those characteristic of multiple sclerosis (MS); intractable pain; post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), autism spectrum disorder; obstructive sleep apnea; Alzheimer’s disease; chronic pain; sickle cell disease; and chronic motor or vocal tic disorder.

Individuals with cancer or a terminal illness with a probable life expectancy of less than one year may also qualify if their condition or its treatment produces one or more symptoms including severe or chronic pain; nausea or severe vomiting; or severe wasting (cachexia).

Cannabis Flower To Be Available Next Year

Cannabis flower is also on track to be made available to Minnesota medical cannabis patients beginning next year. Under a omnibus health and human services bill passed by the legislature and signed into law by Gov. Tim Walz in May, dried cannabis flower must be made available to patients by March 1, 2022.

The change was made at the urging of cannabis advocates, who argued that the currently permitted processed forms of medical cannabis are more costly for patients. Opponents maintained that allowing smokable forms of cannabis would lead to the legalization of recreational marijuana, but state Sen. Michelle Benson said that was not the intent of the bill.

“It is not our goal to make this a path to legalization,” Benson said earlier this year. “It’s a goal to make this available to people with a medical need who cannot afford it. So, we hope we’ve reached the right balance.”

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Minnesota Denies Coverage of Medical Marijuana for Injured Workers

Minnesota’s high court ruled this week that medical marijuana cannot be covered under workers’ compensation.

In a pair of decisions handed down last Wednesday, the state’s Supreme Court said that the federal prohibition on cannabis precludes employers from being required to cover medical marijuana treatment for employees who have been injured.

“If federal law preempts state law in this specific instance, then an employer cannot be ordered to reimburse an injured employee for the cost of medical cannabis used to treat the effects of a work-related injury,” Justice G. Barry Anderson wrote for the majority.

With the rulings on Wednesday, the Minnesota Supreme Court “overturned earlier decisions by the state Workers Compensation Court of Appeals’ that ordered employers to pay for medical marijuana to treat work-related injuries,” according to the Associated Press.

The cases “involved a Mendota Heights dental hygienist who suffered an on-the-job neck injury and an employee at a Prior Lake outdoor equipment dealer who suffered an ankle injury when an ATV rolled over it,” according to the Associated Press, both of whom “were certified by their doctors to use medical marijuana after other treatments to control their pain, including opioids, proved inadequate.”

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Minnesota Denies Cannabis Coverage

The decision captures what has been a defining tension in this era of legalization in the United States: even as dozens of states have moved to end the prohibition on pot, weed remains banned under the federal Controlled Substances Act. 

“We recognize that the federal government’s position on criminal prosecution of cannabis offenses has been in a state of flux for over a decade. At one point, the United States Department of Justice announced that it would not prosecute cannabis offenses under the CSA when a cannabis user complies with state law, but the Department later rescinded those directions,” Anderson wrote. “Further, Congress has prohibited the Department of Justice from using allocated funds to prevent states from implementing medical cannabis laws.”

Anderson wrote that the court concluded “that mandating Mendota Heights to pay for Musta’s medical cannabis, by way of a court order, makes Mendota Heights criminally liable for aiding and abetting the possession of cannabis under federal law.”

“We agree that if the result here is not beneficial to the employee, the remedy is for Congress to pass, and the President to sign, legislation that addresses the preemption issues created by the conflict between federal and state law,” the justice wrote. 

There are growing signs that Congress is ready to do just that. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said earlier this year that Democrats on Capitol Hill were eager to pursue legislation ending the prohibition—with or without President Joe Biden.

“We will move forward,” Schumer said at the time. “[Biden] said he’s studying the issue, so [I] obviously want to give him a little time to study it. I want to make my arguments to him, as many other advocates will. But at some point we’re going to move forward, period.”

Schumer, whose home state of New York legalized marijuana earlier this year, noted the changing attitudes and policies toward pot as a motivating factor in pursuing the legislation.

“In 2018, I was the first member of the Democratic leadership to come out in support of ending the federal prohibition. I’m sure you ask, “Well what changed?” Well, my thinking evolved. When a few of the early states—Oregon and Colorado—wanted to legalize, all the opponents talked about the parade of horribles: Crime would go up.

“Drug use would go up. Everything bad would happen,” Schumer said in an interview with Politico. “The legalization of states worked out remarkably well. They were a great success. The parade of horribles never came about, and people got more freedom. And people in those states seem very happy.”

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