A panel of Connecticut physicians has publicly urged the state to expand its list of medical marijuana conditions.
Patients in Connecticut that are diagnosed with shingles, rheumatoid arthritis, muscular dystrophy and fibromyalgia should qualify for the state’s medical marijuana program, says a panel of state physicians. According to the Hartford Courant, the State Board of Physicians made their recommendation after community members voiced their concerns and requests at a public hearing and meeting.
Pain is a common symptom associated with the panel’s four recommended conditions. Research has established cannabis as a safe and effective treatment for managing both neuropathic and nociceptive pain. Studies also indicate that marijuana can help with the muscle spasms associated with muscular dystrophy and can improve sleep quality in fibromyalgia patients.
Several members of the panel suggested that expanding the state’s list of qualifying conditions could also help address Connecticut’s opioid epidemic. Opioids are traditionally prescribed for pain management, but the substances are highly addictive and carry a high risk of overdose. After Connecticut had 729 fatal drug overdoses in 2015 and was projected to see nearly 900 people die of drug overdoses last year, Gov. Dannel Malloy unveiled a statewide strategy last fall to address the opioid epidemic. Studies suggest that recommending cannabis for managing pain could help curb the use of opioids.
The panel’s recommendations will now be reviewed by Connecticut’s Department of Consumer Protection, which regulates the state’s medical marijuana program. The conditions would then need to be approved by the legislature’s Regulations Review Committee before the change takes effect. It is likely to take around a year for the recommendations to become state regulations.
Connecticut’s medical marijuana program now has more than 15,100 registered patients and more than 593 certified doctors, Connecticut Consumer Protection Commissioner Jonathan Harris told the Hartford Courant, and it “is growing, maturing every single day.” There are currently eight dispensaries open and operating throughout the state.
Medical marijuana has been legal in Connecticut since 2012 when Gov. Malloy signed into law House Bill 5389. The state’s condition list already contains 22 diseases and disorders, and the expansion of the list to include the four conditions recommended by the panel of physicians could mean even further growth for the state’s program.
Gov. Malloy signed House Bill 5450 last year to allow patients under 18 to be approved for medical marijuana for a selected number of conditions – cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, epilepsy, spinal cord injury and terminal illness. The board approved the recommendation of making medical marijuana accessible to minors for muscular dystrophy, but agreed to add fibromyalgia, shingles and rheumatoid arthritis to their recommendation under the condition that they’re prescribed only for adults.
The panel of physicians rejected requests to also recommend the addition of severe emphysema, osteoarthritis and eczema to Connecticut’s list of qualifiable conditions for medical marijuana.