The Arizona Department of Health Services has announced that it will accept petitions from July 27-July 31 to add new debilitating conditions to those already approved by the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act. The AMMA itself calls for open application periods twice a year, but the rules surrounding the process and the specific standards by which these conditions are approved or denied are largely left up to the DHS administration and these rules can be changed.
DHS has fought hard against all the petitions filed in the history of the program. Only PTSD with the help of the Cannabis Nurses Association has been successfully added as a qualifying condition. CNA Attorney Ken Sobol appealed the DHS denial of PTSD and prevailed, in a huge victory for patient rights, this was special because is it is the first mental health condition to be approved for treatment under the AMMA.
The AZDHS responded by proposing to change the standard for approval of new conditions to "conclusive evidence based research" in their October 2014 proposed rules package. If you are aware of the history of cannabis prohibition, you know that studies about the usefulness of cannabis of this caliber are few and far between. Under these proposed rules and the higher standard they require it is possible that a new condition will never successfully be added to the AMMA again.
These new rules have not been implemented to date because of Gov. Doug Ducey's moratorium on rulemaking. This hold on state administrative rulemaking could be lifted any day. The upcoming July 2015 window is the only time to file petitions and be sure to have them heard under the existing, slightly more patient-friendly rules. Sobol has agreed to do the legal paperwork to get 10 petitions filed next week, but he expects to be paid for his work this time around. One local dispensary that is patient focused has agreed to foot half the bill, but the CNA still needs to raise more money to see these lawsuits thru to the end if we are to help heal more sick Arizonans. Some of the conditions on our list of possibilities are:
• Sickle Cell Disease
• Huntington's Disease
• Tourette's Syndrome
• Broken Bones
These and a few others are the conditions in the running to get the attention of the CNA this time around. Some or all of these conditions will be discussed in a few months at public hearings in Phoenix. I invite your participation, if you or someone you know has one of these conditions and has benefited from the medical use of Cannabis please reach out to me or the CNA as soon as possible, your story may help us change minds and laws. If you support Medical Cannabis use and want more of your neighbors to have safe legal access to a non toxic remedy that could change their lives then send a donation to the CNA and earmark it "Conditions 2015". I did and if we help one person to live a better life then I believe the sacrifice is worth it in the end.
Perhaps this is all irrelevant. There are multiple ballot initiatives being circulated that, if successful, would legalize limited amounts of Cannabis for all adults in Arizona. The best funded of these measures is sponsored by Marijuana Policy Project, the same group who helped pass Prop 203 and create the AMMA in 2010. In fact MPP has had a major role in shaping almost all Cannabis laws around the country. There are other initiatives, such as that sponsored by Safer Arizona, with less funding but with more good old fashioned grassroots support. My concern is that the support for Medical Marijuana far outweighs support of Cannabis Legalization. Looking back to 2010 we can see that Prop 203 barely passed, so legalization may not be as sure a bet as some think.
Next week we will take a look at some of these proposed laws, the motives of those who promote them and their chances of becoming law in Arizona in 2016.