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“There’s a tension between the needs of the researchers — they want everything — and the reality of being patients … and how much a pain reporting is going to be for them,” Munson-Regala said.
The absence of details about the research concerns some patients and pro-marijuana advocates. Heather Azzi of Minnesotans for Compassionate Care worries that doctors won’t want to certify patients as having conditions treatable with marijuana if the end result is a paperwork burden. Then patients might have to waste time and money visiting multiple doctors to find one who will certify their conditions, she said.
Cost a factor
Minnesota is spending $2.9 million next year to start the registry, and about $1 million per year after that to maintain it and continue the research project. User fees of $200 per patient will help fund it, but Azzi wondered who will bear the cost if patients are required to participate in additional medical exams in order to provide data that researchers need. “This is not something that is going to be covered by medical insurance,” she said.
Thorson said he would be willing to certify patients’ qualifying conditions, but other doctors aren’t so sure. Some health system officials worry they might lose their grants from the federal government, which currently deems marijuana an illegal controlled substance. Allina, Children’s, HealthEast and Fairview said their health systems had not yet set any policies one way or another.
There are patients, however, who say the research is worth the price. Kristy Kargel hopes to use the state system next year to access medicinal marijuana that will help her now 9-year-old daughter deal with frequent seizures.
She was already prepared to move to Colorado — possibly splitting the family temporarily while her husband and youngest daughter remained in Minnesota — so providing data for medical research hardly seemed like a burden.
“I’m all for research,” the Stillwater mother said. “I mean, we’ve tried over 21 medications that have failed … I’m willing to put in as much time and effort as we need.”
Jeremy Olson • 612-673-7744