What providers need to know about the new proposed legislation to support their clients
No matter what position you take in the debate over the legalization of marijuana, there’s no denying the “Yes” movement has picked up steam over the past decade.
Since 2012, when voters in Colorado and Washington moved to legalize recreational marijuana, twenty-one states have followed suit. And with the recent HF 100 bill, Minnesota looks to be the next state to join its ranks.
Regardless of the outcome, this legislation (and some earlier changes to Minnesota cannabis laws) is bound to have an impact on substance use recovery (SUR) treatment providers and their clients.
So to help you get prepared and up to speed, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about the HF 100 bill.
Known as the “Omnibus cannabis bill,” HF 100 was first introduced in January 2023.
It has undergone several amendments since, with the latest overhaul currently being considered by Minnesota lawmakers.
According to the latest House Research Bill Summary, the bill:
- Establishes a regulatory framework for adult-use cannabis and lower-dose cannabinoid products
- Moves the medical cannabis program under the newly created Office of Cannabis Management
- Establishes taxes on adult-use cannabis
- Creates grants to assist individuals entering into the legal cannabis market
- Amends criminal penalties
- Provides for expungement and resentencing of certain convictions
- Provides for temporary regulation of hemp-derived edible cannabinoid products
- Reschedules marijuana
- Appropriates money
Now. Take a breath. You don’t have to remember all of that!
But as a substance use recovery provider, there are several things you should be aware of about the HF100 bill and the legalization of marijuana in Minnesota.
This isn’t an exhaustive list, but if you need a quick refresher on the legal status of cannabis in Minnesota, here’s what you need to know.
- Cannabis has been legal for medical use in Minnesota since 2014.
- Marijuana is (kind of) already legal in Minnesota in certain forms. In July 2022, a law took effect to permit the sale and purchase of food and beverages containing up to 5mg of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the active ingredient of cannabis) per serving and 50mg per package.
- HF 100 aims to legalize the personal use of cannabis by adults. If passed in its current form, a person aged 21 years or over may:
- use, possess, or transport cannabis paraphernalia
- possess two ounces or less of cannabis flower in a public place
- possess five pounds or less of cannabis flower in a person’s residence
- possess or transport eight grams or less of adult-use cannabis concentrate
- possess or transport edible products infused with a total of 800 mg or less of tetrahydrocannabinol
- give away cannabis flower and cannabinoid products in an amount that is legal for a person to possess in public
- use cannabis flower and cannabinoid products in private areas
- cultivate up to eight cannabis plants, of which four or fewer may be mature, flowering plants
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As a substance use treatment provider, there are several ways you can support clients to safely navigate changes to legislation around marijuana.
Particularly amongst teens and young adults, there is a perception that cannabis use is harmless or without risk. One of the unintended consequences of the legalization of marijuana is that some clients might point to law changes as “evidence” of this mistaken belief.
While we recommend avoiding anything resembling “scare tactics,” you might like to inform your clients about some of the following health risks from marijuana use, many of which are summarized on the CDC What We Know About Marijuana web page:
- Marijuana can become problematic and lead to addiction in people who use it regularly. Approximately 3 in 10 people who use marijuana have marijuana use disorder.
- Medical treatment with cannabis is different from recreational use. The drug is generally used in purified, pharmaceutical-grade formulations, which are taken orally in specific doses under the close supervision of a doctor.
- Cannabis can negatively impact brain function, particularly in the areas of memory, learning, and attention.
Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States, with 18.7% of people aged 12 or over-reporting using it in the past year in 2021. Rates of use are highest in young adults aged 18 to 25, at 35.4%. Use among older adults is estimated at 17.2%.
Considering its high prevalence of use and growing cultural acceptance, harm minimization and recovery oriented approach to marijuana may be suitable for some of your clients.
Unfortunately, there are no safety guidelines for cannabis use, like with alcohol, so you’ll largely have to rely on your clinical judgment when giving recommendations.
Some harm minimization suggestions that may apply to your clients include:
- Avoiding taking cannabis by smoking, as this is harmful to the lungs
- Not driving or operating heavy machinery while under the influence
- Not mixing cannabis with other substances
- Abstaining from use (and seeking professional help) if marijuana exacerbates an existing mental health condition or causes new symptoms
- Trying not to use the drug on consecutive days or for extended periods of time
- Helping clients who want to abstain plan for relapse prevention
The reality is, legal or not, marijuana use is problematic for a relatively high proportion of the population in the US.
The 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimate that 5.1% of the population has a cannabis disorder. And you’ve no doubt treated many such clients in your practice already.
In its comprehensive Cannabis Research Report, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) advises that there are currently no FDA-approved medications to provide medication-assisted recovery for marijuana use disorder. However, for people with a comorbid psychiatric condition, “effectively treating the mental health disorder with standard treatments involving medications and behavioral therapies may help reduce marijuana use.”
As far as behavioral treatments, NIDA states that “marijuana use disorders appear very similar to other substance use disorders,” so standard therapies are likely to be effective. They identify cognitive behavioral therapy, contingency management, and motivational enhancement therapy as those showing the most promise.
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