Pubdate: Tue, 24 Apr 2012
Source: Arizona Republic (Phoenix, AZ)
Copyright: 2012 The Arizona Republic
Author: Yvonne Wingett Sanchez


State Is Considering Allowing Four New Medical Conditions for Pot Use

Four new medical conditions could eventually qualify under Arizona's 
medical-marijuana program.

State health officials are considering whether to add depression, 
anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and migraines as 
"debilitating conditions," which would allow people to legally use medical pot.

Arizona would become the only state in the nation to allow medical 
marijuana for anxiety and depression, said Will Humble, director of 
the state Department of Health Services, which oversees the 
medical-marijuana program.

He said New Mexico is the only state that actively allows medical pot 
for post-traumatic stress disorder.

The voter-approved Arizona Medical Marijuana Act requires the state 
health department to periodically accept and evaluate petitions to 
allow new medical conditions into the program.

"At this point, it's just a hearing process -- it doesn't mean we're 
approving these," Humble said. "Our medical-review team thought they 
had at least provided enough evidence to warrant a hearing (on the 
four conditions), but that's very different from an approval."

Health officials received numerous petitions from people who suffer 
from the conditions proposed, as well as people who care for those 
who have the conditions, said Laura Oxley, a spokeswoman for the 
health department.

The health department is conducting an online survey to allow public 
comment. On May 25, the department will hold a hearing on the proposal.

Ultimately, Humble will decide whether or not to add the conditions, he said.

His decision can be appealed through a judicial review.

To add a medical condition, Humble said, petitioners must prove that 
symptoms impair daily life, submit evidence that medical pot will 
provide relief, and provide recent articles published in 
peer-reviewed scientific journals that show marijuana helps treat the 
conditions, among other things.

Humble said that if PTSD is added to the medical-marijuana program, 
he predicts it alone could add 15,000 to 20,000 new patients.

Voters created Arizona's medical-marijuana program in 2010 after 
passing a measure to allow people with certain debilitating medical 
conditions to use pot.

They must register with the state, which issues identification cards 
to qualified patients and caregivers.

The state will set up and regulate up to 126 dispensaries. Health 
officials will accept dispensary applications May 14 through May 25.

More than 22,200 people have received permission to smoke, eat or 
otherwise ingest medical marijuana to ease their ailments.

Of those, nearly three-quarters are men, and nearly 85 percent of all 
patients have requested to grow their own cannabis.

Officials denied nine applications.

People ages 31 to 50 make up the largest group of patients using the 
drug to counter illness, representing 40 percent of all 
medical-marijuana users.

Those 51 to 81 account for more than 35 percent of patients, while 
people 18 to 30 make up about 25 percent. People younger than 18 
represent less than 1 percent.

The overwhelming majority of medical-pot users reported chronic pain 
as their medical condition, while muscle spasms also were high on the 
list, health officials reported.

Other ailments include hepatitis C, cancer and seizures.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom