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Calming Influence 

The state should make MMJ an option for sufferers of generalized anxiety disorder

Everyone feels anxious from time to time. We get tense when we have important meetings or hot dates or when we're in traffic and some asshole cuts us off.

But clinical anxiety is a different animal. People who suffer from generalized anxiety disorder don't get a break when they see the date is going well or that the meeting was a success. Their anxiety is a constant, physically gripping presence, often for no good reason. It makes people fearful and sweaty in situations most of us glide through with ease.

But there is a growing body of evidence, some of which can be found at www.azdhs.gov/medicalmarijuana/debilitating/index.htm, that a few tokes from a joint or a nibble on a pot brownie brings relief—real, clinical relief—to people with generalized anxiety disorder. On May 25, the state Department of Health Services held a hearing in Phoenix to take public comments on adding generalized anxiety disorder—along with depression, migraines and post-traumatic stress disorder, as discussed in this space over the last few weeks—as a qualifying condition for medical-marijuana patients.

Jacob Jones urged the state to put the cannabis option on the table for anxiety-sufferers like him. Jacob tried low-grade marijuana in his home state of Kentucky and found that it helped his anxiety. When he came to Arizona, he started using the sticky, and guess what? It worked even better. Cannabis helps Jacob avoid a host of symptoms, including nightmares, insomnia and repeated flashbacks of traumatic events.

"And THC does this without bringing the damaging side effects and addiction (of) other anti-anxiety drugs, such as Valium," he told DHS officials, adding a plea for compassion.

Yes, Jacob. Well said.

A woman who gave her name only as Corey disputed what one doctor at the hearing said about people using MMJ possibly self-medicating and falling under the radar of the medical system. She thinks it might bring people who suffer from what she called "subclinical" problems into the light.

"Adding these conditions to the qualifying-conditions list will help these people come out of the woodwork and stop hiding these serious mental conditions, and actually get treatment for them," Corey said.

At the close of the hearing, DHS Director Will Humble—who personally opposes medical marijuana but has enthusiastically carried out the will of voters by implementing the state program—thanked the people who came to speak.

"This is an important part of the process," Humble said. "What we'll be doing from here is taking the information that we received today; we'll also be looking at all the information that we get electronically through our website, and we'll evaluate that information."

After a review by DHS physicians and others from academia, the state will decide by August whether to add the four conditions. In the meantime, more conditions might be considered. For two weeks next month—and each January and July from now on—DHS will take petitions for more additions.

"Over time, as the medical-marijuana program matures, we'll be able to capture continuing data to evaluate what kinds of medical conditions moving forward might be beneficial for the use of medical marijuana," Humble said, adding that he was grateful for the professionalism and grace of the folks who spoke.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I have to say that the question of whether to treat these illnesses with cannabis will not and should not be made by DHS physicians. They will decide only whether cannabis becomes a legal option under state law. The decision to treat the illnesses with cannabis will be made by the patients and their doctors.

So let's give them that option.

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