PHOENIX — Arizona residents who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder
will be able to legally use marijuana to help alleviate their symptoms under a
decision announced Wednesday by the state’s top health official.
The decision by Department of Health Services Director Will Humble adopts the
findings of an administrative law judge’s recommendation issued last month. The
decision was made public on the day Humble was required to accept, modify or
reject Judge Thomas Shedden’s decision. It takes effect on Jan. 1.
Humble denied adding PTSD to the list of ailments that qualified for a medical
marijuana card in December, after a public hearing and comment period where 700
people supported the effort to add the disorder and only two people spoke in
opposition. A health department committee also had reviewed a University of
Arizona analysis of medical studies and recommended Humble deny the request in
part because there were no high-quality scientific tests in humans showing
marijuana helped PTSD patients.
The Arizona Cannabis Nurses Association then appealed to the Office of
Administrative Hearings, and Shedden heard four days of testimony earlier this
year. His decision said Humble misinterpreted state rules on adding medical
marijuana conditions and said substantial evidence was introduced showing
patients receive “palliative benefit from marijuana use.”
Humble wasn’t available for comment, but said in a blog post that information
presented at the hearing and in a subsequent published medical study “provided
evidence that marijuana may be helpful in the palliative care of PTSD in some
Humble’s decision requires that prescribing doctors certify their patients are
undergoing conventional treatment for the disorder. Marijuana can only be
prescribed to relieve symptoms, not treat them.
Ken Sobel, a Tucson attorney who argued the case before the administrative law
judge, was ecstatic at Humble’s decision.
“Yes, yes, outstanding! We are very pleased with that decision, as will be the
500,000 plus PTSD patients in the state of Arizona, especially our returning war
heroes who are suffering from PTSD in epidemic proportions,” Sobel said. “We
thank Director Humble for exercising correct judgment in this case.”
The use of medical marijuana is allowed in Arizona under a voter-approved 2010
law. The measure allows patients with diseases including cancer, HIV/AIDS,
Hepatitis C and any other “chronic or debilitating” disease that meets
guidelines to buy no more than 2 1/2 ounces of marijuana every two weeks or grow
plants in certain areas.
The decision by Humble marked the first time he had added a qualifying
condition to the list.
Sobel hopes it isn’t the last, and on Wednesday filed a petition asking Humble
to add Parkinson’s disease.
“The Arizona Cannabis Nurses Association filed this on behalf of primarily our
senior citizens,” Sobel said. “Our focus is on trying to get these conditions
added for the most vulnerable of our residents here in Arizona, such as the
veterans in the case of PTSD and Parkinson’s disease, which afflicts mostly
people that are 60 years of age and older.”
Eleven states had previously approved using medical marijuana for PTSD,
according to Shedden’s ruling.
Follow Bob Christie at http://twitter.com/APChristie