In its first official decision since its formation, the Connecticut Medical Marijuana Program Board of Physicians voted yesterday to expand the list of conditions treated legally through medical marijuana. The three new treatable conditions are sickle cell disease, psoriasis arthritis and Post-Laminectomy Syndrome.
Members of the public as interested parties have the right to petition the board for new conditions to be included for legal prescription of medical marijuana in the state of Connecticut. During the Dec. 3 meeting, the board heard testimony petitioning for the recognition of sickle cell disease, Tourette Syndrome, psoriasis arthritis and Post-Laminectomy Syndrome as treatable conditions. The December meeting ended with the proposal left unresolved. During yesterday’s meeting, however, the board voted to approve the use of marijuana for three of the four proposed conditions — excluding Tourette Syndrome — lengthening the list of conditions eligible for medical cannabis from 11 to 14.
Board member and Yale psychiatry professor Deepak D’Souza personally opposed the board’s decision to expand medical marijuana coverage because, he said, there is no clinical evidence of marijuana’s supposed medicinal properties.
D’Souza said, furthermore, that there is no scientific explanation as to why one medication would work for four separate conditions with no common pathology.
“There is nothing in common between sickle-cell and psoriasis, and I find it difficult to believe that one drug could herb heal conditions so drastically dissimilar,” he said after the meeting.
D’Souza cited a letter from the Connecticut State Medical Society that urged caution in expanding medical marijuana coverage considering the lack of high-quality data.
The letter warned against expanding the list based on public sentiment instead of data on dosage, side effects and drug interactions.
Although some experts have questioned the expansion given the lack of clinical data, board member Godfrey Pearlson noted that marijuana’s illegal status complicates the ability of physicians to test it under properly structured clinical conditions.
John Roberts, medical director of the Adult Sickle Cell Program at Yale-New Haven Hospital, testified during the December meeting on behalf of his patients, many of whom claimed that cannabis helped alleviate their pain. Although he said his patients claim to have benefitted from cannabis, he too acknowledged that there is a lack of clinical evidence to support the drug’s medicinal properties.
Kris Hermes, media specialist for Americans for Safe Access, a grassroots medical marijuana advocacy organization, said that he believes that cannabis is an herbal medicine and should be regulated as such. To market herbs as medicine, manufacturers are not legally required to clinically demonstrate their efficacy and safety.
Connecticut became the seventeenth state to legalize medical marijuana in 2012 through a statute that protects registered patients from arrest when using or possessing up to a one-month supply of medical cannabis. Patients and caregivers registered with the Department of Consumer Protection may purchase medical cannabis from state-licensed dispensaries. However, no personal cultivation is allowed.
Americans for Safe Access allots grades to states concerning the stringency of marijuana regulation, with an ‘A’ indicating looser policies. The state of Connecticut has a D+ due to restrictions on the lists of conditions for which medical marijuana can be prescribed, the illegality of personal cultivation, restrictions on caretakers and minors and the amount of marijuana supplied to patients at dispensaries.
The first licensed Medical Marijuana Dispensary Facility opened on Aug. 20, 2014.