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Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger is giving the public more time, and more opportunities, to weigh in before he decides whether to expand Minnesota's medical marijuana program to people in pain.

Ehlinger added an extra hour to his upcoming public forum next Tuesday and will allow anyone who can't make that meeting to submit a written comment.

The commissioner has until the end of the year to decide whether to add "intractable pain" to the short list of conditions allowed into Minnesota's restrictive medical marijuana program.

Most of the 23 states with medical marijuana programs allow pain patients, and in many of those states, pain patients make up the bulk of their clients. Minnesota's program, which opened in July, is limited to patients with one of nine serious conditions. As of Friday, the state Office of Medical Cannabis had enrolled just 692 patients.

Earlier this week, an eight-member panel of medical experts recommended against expanding the program to intractable pain -- reversing its members' earlier support for the idea. But Ehlinger's decision will also weigh more than 400 public comments submitted to his office -- most of which were strongly in favor of bringing intractable pain patients into the program.

Ehlinger will open his Tuesday, Nov. 10, forum on the topic an hour earlier than planned: from 3-6 p.m. at Wentworth Library, 199 Wentworth Ave. E., in West St. Paul.

The public can also submit written reaction to the intractable pain panels's recommendations to The public comment period ends at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday.