Pubdate: Mon, 02 Nov 2015
Source: Albuquerque Journal (NM)
Copyright: 2015 Albuquerque Journal
Author: Olivier Uyttebrouck


Looser PTSD Rules Boost Prescriptions

The number of New Mexicans licensed to buy medical marijuana surged 
by almost 50 percent this year, in part because of a court ruling in 
April that eased some qualifications required to get a license, a 
state official said.

About 18,780 people are now licensed by the state Department of 
Health to buy medical pot, up 48 percent from 12,647 on Jan. 1, said 
Andrea Sundberg, director of the agency's medical cannabis program. 
An advocate for the state's medical cannabis law said the spike in 
licensed patients also reflects a growing acceptance of medical 
marijuana among patients and physicians.

First Judicial District Judge David Thomson ordered the Department of 
Health to scrap several regulations, including one that had required 
patients diagnosed with post-traumatic stress syndrome to show that 
"standard treatments" for PTSD had failed. "We did see a marked 
increase (in applications) after the court ruling," Sundberg said. 
The ruling "changed how our applications were being accepted and 
processed." The court ruling is the most likely explanation for the 
increase, Sundberg said. "That's the only significant change we've 
seen in the program since then," she said. Thomson also ordered the 
agency to drop a requirement that only psychiatrists or prescribing 
psychologists could sign a medical certification allowing PTSD 
patients to obtain a license. Today, any state-licensed medical 
provider can certify a patient for the PTSD qualification, which 
accounts for about 45 percent of all licensed patients.

The number of patients who qualify with a PTSD diagnosis has 
increased 53 percent this year, from 5,559 on Jan. 1 to 8,502 today.

Thomson's ruling also eased requirements for patients to qualify with 
a chronic pain diagnosis by eliminating the need for patients to 
obtain signatures from two clinicians, including a pain-management specialist.

The agency today requires only one signature from any licensed 
medical provider.

Patients who qualify with a chronic pain diagnosis have increased by 
half since Jan. 1 to 5,305.

Lawmakers approved the law in 2007 allowing patients with at least 
one of 11 medical conditions to qualify for a license to buy 
marijuana from a state-licensed producer. The agency has since 
expanded to 22 the list of qualifying conditions.

Jessica Gelay, policy coordinator for the Drug Policy Alliance, an 
advocacy group for medical marijuana, said the court ruling is one of 
several factors explaining the spike in licensed patients.

"Part of what we're seeing is a general acceptance of marijuana as 
medicine," Gelay said.

A seminar on medical cannabis held at the University of New Mexico 
last year drew a large audience, indicating interest by medical 
providers, she said.

Patients are also attracted to the growing variety of marijuana 
products, including edible forms and topical formulas absorbed 
through the skin, that offer alternatives to smoking, she said.

"It's really a learning curve for the public as well as for the 
providers," Gelay said. "I would expect that it will continue to grow."
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