State may add three conditions to list approved for marijuana treatment

Consumer Protection is drafting regulations to add three new conditions to the existing list of eleven that qualify for palliative treatment with medical marijuana in Connecticut.

On Jan. 14, the marijuana program’s Board of Physicians voted to recommend adding sickle cell disease, severe psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, and post-laminectomy syndrome with chronic radiculopathy, which is recurring back pain after surgery, to the list of qualifying conditions. The Board voted unanimously against adding Tourette’s Syndrome, a disorder of the nervous system that produces involuntary tics and vocalizations.

“In light of the Board members’ careful review and deliberation of the evidence involving the potential for marijuana to alleviate the pain, symptoms and complications of these debilitating conditions, as well as the benefit of avoiding the negative effects associated with opioids, I have concluded that these medical conditions should be added to the list of debilitating medical conditions under the Act,” Consumer Protection Commissioner Jonathan Harris said this week. “Accordingly, we will move forward immediately to promulgate a regulation to that effect.”

The regulation review process will include a hearing and public comment period before the proposed regulation is sent to the Attorney General for review and then to the General Assembly's Regulation Review Committee for the final vote needed to add the conditions to the regulations.

The four conditions reviewed by the Board of Physicians in January were the first to be considered for addition to the original list set out in statute. The conditions were presented to the Department of Consumer Protection in the form of written petitions that included specific, required information, including the extent to which the condition, or currently available treatment of the condition, causes severe or chronic pain, spasticity or nausea, supporting evidence from professionally recognized sources, and letters in support of the petition from physicians or other licensed health care professionals knowledgeable about the condition, treatment or disease.

Public Act 12-55, An Act Concerning the Palliative Use of Marijuana, was passed by the Connecticut General Assembly and signed into law on May 31, 2012. The Department of Consumer Protection was charged with developing the Connecticut Medical Marijuana Program, including establishing patient, physician, and caregiver eligibility guidelines and registration procedures and establishing a secure, controlled, production and distribution network for medical marijuana in Connecticut.

When followed, Connecticut’s law protects registered patients from state and local arrest and prosecution for possessing marijuana for palliative use, as long as it is handled within the strict guidelines of the program. Registered, qualifying patients may possess a one-month supply of marijuana -- currently set at 2.5 ounces -- unless the patient’s doctor recommends less.

The original 11 medical conditions set forth in Public Act 12-55 include: Cancer, Glaucoma, Parkinson’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Epilepsy, Cachexia, damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity, Crohn’s Disease, Positive status for Human Immunodeficiency Virus or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, Wasting Syndrome and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

A physician initiates their patient’s access to this treatment by certifying that the patient is eligible for, and could benefit from, the palliative use of marijuana. Only Connecticut-licensed physicians with the appropriate state and federal controlled substance registrations may certify patients for medical marijuana. Doctor and patient must also have a bona fide relationship, in which the doctor has ongoing responsibility for the assessment, care and treatment of the patient’s debilitating medical condition or symptom.