In the Marijuana Licensing Reference Guide: 2017 Edition, Cannabiz Media identified the four most important conditions that a state has to cover in its medical marijuana program in order for businesses operating in the industry to have the greatest potential for success. Those conditions are chronic pain, muscle spasticity, spinal cord injury/disease, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This month, Minnesota announced that it would add PTSD to its medical marijuana program, and New York announced that it would add chronic pain to its program.

In total, Minnesota covered 13 conditions prior to the addition of PTSD, having added chronic pain in July 2016. Adding PTSD will continue to broaden the state’s patient audience for medical marijuana. It also means that Minnesota now covers two of the four most important conditions for business growth.

With the addition of chronic pain, New York now covers three of the four most important conditions for marijuana business growth (chronic pain, muscle spasticity, and spinal cord injury/disease).

The Importance of Chronic Pain and PTSD

According to the Marijuana Licensing Reference Guide: 2017 Edition, across all states that allow medical marijuana, 59.2% of patients are registered to receive marijuana to treat chronic, severe, or intractable pain. It is the most commonly cited condition ahead of muscle spasticity (19.4%), spinal cord injury/disease (13.4%), and PTSD (12.5%).

In total, 23 states cover chronic pain, 21 states cover muscle spasticity, 15 states cover PTSD, and six states cover spinal cord injury/disease. If a state isn’t covering one or more of these conditions (with chronic pain being the most important), marijuana-related businesses operating in that state will find it more challenging to grow.

More Barriers for Industry Growth Still Exist

Despite the addition of these important conditions, marijuana programs in Minnesota and New York are unlikely to see significant growth in the short-term. The reason is simple. Both programs are so restrictive that growth is extremely difficult.

While the medical marijuana programs in Minnesota and New York are both very young (only two years old), the early stage is just a small part of the growth problem these states are facing. According to the Marijuana Licensing Reference Guide: 2017 Edition, only 0.02% of Minnesota’s population and 0.01% of New York’s population are registered medical marijuana patients.

Fortunately, both states are making changes that should help keep their medical marijuana programs alive. In addition to adding conditions, Minnesota will allow the use of topical marijuana formulations such as lotions, creams, ointments, gels, and patches. This is extremely important since previously, Minnesota only allowed pills, oils, and vapors – a subset of the concentrate product form. Other states allow one or more of the five forms of marijuana products: flower strains, concentrates, edibles, transdermals, and seeds and/or plants. However, Minnesota law still does not allow the manufacturing of products that can be smoked or use the full plant.

New York’s medical marijuana program is also very restrictive in terms of approved product forms. New York allows all concentrates, but that’s it. Flower strains, edibles, transdermals, and seeds and/or plants are still banned. That means every marijuana product must be manufactured in some way, which adds to business costs. As discussed in the Marijuana Licensing Reference Guide: 2017 Edition and the complimentary guide preview, this adds to the trickle down effect that negatively affects patients and the industry overall.

Furthermore, New York has expanded the providers who can recommend medical marijuana to patients. Soon, nurse practitioners and physician assistants will be able to register with the state to recommend it to their patients.

Changes Today Won’t Drive Quick Results

Of course, just because these conditions and product forms have been approved in New York and Minnesota doesn’t mean the marijuana industries in either state will grow significantly in the near future. It takes a long time, often years, for announced changes to actually go into effect and reach marijuana-related businesses and patients.

For example, patients in Minnesota won’t be able to get marijuana to treat their PTSD until August 1, 2017 and only after they obtain advance certification from an approved Minnesota health care provider.

To learn more about medical and recreational marijuana licensing, get your copy of the Marijuana Licensing Guide: 2017 Edition or subscribe to the Cannabiz Media Database for access to the most comprehensive and current data on the marijuana industry available.