Arizona Considers Expanding Medical Marijuana Law


Moderate in the Middle

Four new medical conditions could eventually qualify patients to participate in Arizona’s medical marijuana program.

The state health department is considering whether it should add depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and migraines as “debilitating conditions,” which would allow patients suffering from those conditions to legally use medicinal cannabis under Arizona law, reports Yvonne Wingett Sanchez at The Arizona Republic.
If the new conditions are approved, Arizona would be the only state in the nation to specifically allow medical marijuana for anxiety and depression, according to Will Humble, director of the state Department of Health Services, which oversees Arizona’s medical marijuana program. However, California’s broadly written medicinal cannabis law basically allows physicians to recommend marijuana for any condition that, in their medical opinion, it could help.

According to Humble, New Mexico is the only state that already specifically allows medical marijuana for PTSD.

Arizona Department of Health Services
Will Humble, Arizona DHS: “At this point, it’s just a hearing process — it doesn’t mean we’re approving these”

The Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, approved by voters almost two years ago, requires the state health department to accept and evaluate petitions to allow patients with new medical conditions into the program from time to time.
“At this point, it’s just a hearing process — it doesn’t mean we’re approving these,” Humble cautioned. “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 have received numerous petitions from people who suffer from various conditions not covered under the current rules, as well as caregivers for those who suffer from such conditions, according to Laura Oxley, a spokeswoman for the health department.
The department is now conducting an online survey to allow public comment. On May 25, a hearing will be held for the public to weigh in on adding the four conditions to the medical marijuana program.
Ultimately, Humble said he will make the decision on whether or not to add the conditions. His decision can be appealed through a judicial review.
Petitioners must prove that symptoms impair their delay life and functionality, submit evidence that marijuana will provide relief, and submit recent articles published in peer-reviewed scientific journals showing that cannabis helps, in order to add a medical condition to Arizona’s list, according to Humble.
If PTSD is added to Arizona’s medical marijuana program, that alone could add up to 20,000 new patients, Humble said. 
Under Arizona law, medical marijuana patients and caregivers must register with the state, which issues ID cards. The state will set up and regulate up to 126 dispensaries under the law. Health officials are accepting dispensary applications from May 14 through May 25.
Since Arizona voters legalized marijuana for medicinal use in November 2010, more than 22,000 patients have received the state’s permission to possess, smoke, eat, or otherwise ingest cannabis to ease their ailments.
Nearly 85 percent of Arizona’s medicinal cannabis patients — three-quarters of whom are men — have requested to grow their own. Nine applications have been denied.
Under Arizona’s law, patients living 25 or fewer miles from the nearest state-licensed dispensary aren’t eligible to grow their own marijuana. A move is afoot in the state to get rid of the 25-mile limit, part of the original law approved by voters in 2010. If interested, you can visit the “No 25 Mile Rule Arizona” Facebook page.