Minnesota permits medical marijuana use for intractable pain, but advocates believe that leaves too many people suffering.

Now they have petitioned the state to add moderate to severe chronic pain as a qualifying condition for medical cannabis. The state health commissioner has until Dec. 1 to rule.

The commissioner also must decide whether to add macular degeneration to the list of 14 conditions that can be treated with cannabis oils or pills, but the pain decision is significant because it could explode the state's number of cannabis users.

The advocacy group Sensible Minnesota filed the petition, arguing that it's too limiting to certify only patients with intractable pain — narrowly defined as constant pain that other medications can't manage.

"This language has prevented thousands of patients from qualifying for medical cannabis and has made health care providers wary to certify their patients," wrote Gunnar Aas, vice president of the advocacy group.

The term chronic, by comparison, refers to pain that has persisted for six months or more and outlasted the injuries or illnesses that caused it. How many Minnesotans suffer chronic pain is unclear, but 83,000 people in the state undergo surgeries or injections every year to address it.

Intractable pain is the most common qualifying condition for medical pot in Minnesota, despite arguments that its definition is narrow. The 10,929 people certified last month for this condition represented 64% of the state cannabis registry.

Jeremy Olson • 612-673-7744 • @stribjo