Last December I denied a petition to add Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to the list of debilitating medical conditions that qualify people for an Arizona Medical Marijuana Registration Card. I denied the petition because, at the time, I believed there was a lack of scientific evidence to document whether Cannabis is helpful or not to treat or provide palliative care for PTSD.
The Petitioners appealed my decision to the Arizona Office of Administrative Hearings earlier this year. A few weeks ago the Administrative Law Judge ruled that: “… the Appellant’s appeal is granted and that PTSD is added to the list of debilitating conditions for which marijuana may be dispensed”.
Among the reasons why Judge Shedden issued a recommendation that was different than my decision was that our Rules invite petitioners to submit information other than peer-reviewed data with their petition… and I primarily considered the presence or absence of peer-reviewed data in my December decision. Also, during the March hearing the Petitioners referred to a manuscript (at the time yet to be published) that found an association between Cannabis use and PTSD symptom reduction in some patients. That article was subsequently published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs (March 2014). In other words, the information presented by the Petitioners at the hearing and the subsequent published study provided evidence that marijuana may be helpful in the palliative care of PTSD in some patients.
Therefore, today I issued a Director’s Decision that will authorize the use of marijuana (under AMMA) for patients that are currently undergoing conventional treatment for a diagnosis of PTSD. Physician certifications would be valid only for 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 implementation date of this decision will be January 1, 2015. This allows a few months for certifying physicians, dispensary medical directors, and dispensary agents to develop policies and procedures and educational materials required by our Rules.