Pubdate: Thu, 10 Jul 2014
Source: Arizona Republic (Phoenix, AZ)
Copyright: 2014 The Arizona Republic
Author: Yvonne Wingett Sanchez


A decision made by the Arizona Department of Health Services director 
will allow anyone suffering from PTSD to use cannabis for care.

Arizona's top health official said Wednesday that people authorized 
to use medical marijuana may soon begin using the drug to relieve 
symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, if a physician recommends it.

The decision by state Department of Health Services Director Will 
Humble will allow PTSD sufferers, beginning Jan. 1, to use cannabis 
for palliative care -- but not as a primary treatment for the disorder.

Arizona's medical marijuana law provides two ways patients can use 
medical marijuana: to treat specific medical conditions or for 
palliative care -- to make life more comfortable for those suffering 
from medical ailments.

The decision is a big win for medical marijuana advocates, many whom 
have long said cannabis is effective in treating PTSD.

In announcing his decision, Humble cited a recent study published in 
the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs that provides evidence that 
marijuana may be helpful in the palliative care of PTSD in some patients.

"Today I issued a Director's Decision that will authorize the use of 
marijuana ... for patients that are currently undergoing conventional 
treatment for a diagnosis of PTSD," Humble wrote in a blog post to be 
published Wednesday on the health department's website. "Physician 
certifications would be valid only for the palliative care of PTSD 
symptoms (not treatment). Certifying physicians will be required to 
attest that they have reviewed evidence documenting that the patient 
is currently undergoing conventional treatment for PTSD before 
signing the medical marijuana certification."

The new policy won't take effect until Jan. 1 in order to give health 
officials and dispensaries time to develop policies and procedures 
and educational materials, as required by the rules.

Arizona joins nine states that allow medical marijuana for PTSD, 
including Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, New Mexico, Oregon, Michigan 
and Nevada, says Karen O'Keefe, director of state policies at the 
Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C. O'Keefe said there is a 
growing movement by states with medical-marijuana laws to allow those 
suffering from PTSD to use medical marijuana because it is seen as an 
effective treatment.

Humble's decision comes after an administrative law judge last month 
recommended state officials allow those with PTSD to use medical 
marijuana, reversing an earlier decision by Humble.

In the past, Humble has said there was insufficient research on 
marijuana's effects on PTSD.

Since the inception of the state's medical-marijuana program, 
veterans and medical-marijuana advocates have pushed state health 
officials to allow PTSD to qualify as a condition. Some veterans have 
told The Arizona Republic that the drug regimes their doctors have 
put them on are ineffective and have damaged their organs.
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