HARTFORD, CT — Five new conditions were accepted for treatment to the state’s growing medical marijuana program at a recent Board of Physicians meeting.
The conditions added for treatment under the program, which now has more than 33,000 patients and 1,111 prescribing physicians, are: Interstitial cystitis (for adults only); Intractable Neuropathic pain that is unresponsive to standard patients (for adults and patients under 18); Medial arcuate ligament syndrome (recommended for adults); Tourette syndrome (recommended for adults and for patients under 18 who have failed standard medical treatment); and, Vulvodynia and vulvar burning (recommended for adults).
The five conditions will be added to the Medical Marijuana Program’s regulations, and are ultimately subject to approval by the Regulations Review Committee of the Connecticut General Assembly.
Chronic pain was not added to the list of treatable conditions. Instead, a decision on adding it to the list was tabled for a future meeting.
The decision to hold off on adding adding chronic pain was made by the board despite a pitch to add it by Brian Essenter, a medical marijuana counselor.
Essenter told the board there were a number of other states that allow chronic pain as a treatable condition.
“Whether or not it’s a certifiable condition, we are treating patients for this condition,” Essenter told the board.
Essenter added that with the cracking down on opioid prescriptions in the state because of the overdose epidemic that has plagued Connecticut, patients suffering from chronic pain “are looking for alternatives.”
He said other states have been successful in weaning patients off opioid prescriptions with medical marijuana.
“This is not about a desire to get high but a desire to improve quality of life,” Essenter said.
Board members said the issue with adding chronic pain as a condition is that its definition needs to be narrowed.
“We have to be careful to not make it extremely broad,” said Dr. Jonathan Kost. He and others on the board said they felt more time needed to be spent figuring out whether specific conditions could be tied to the chronic pain category.
The follow up meeting regarding chronic pain will be announced once it is scheduled.
At that meeting officials will further discuss the potential addition of chronic pain and whether that condition should be narrowed before being added to the program, but no further public testimony period will be accepted.
“I want to thank the brave members of the public who testified at today’s meeting and the Board of Physicians for their thoughtful discussion, and deliberation,” said Consumer Protection Commissioner Michelle H. Seagull.
“Our program relies on the advice and guidance we receive from the medical community including the Board,” Seagull said. “I’m pleased with how our program has grown to support well over 30,000 patients with severe debilitating conditions in the state, all while keeping the integrity of this truly medical program in mind.”
While efforts to legalize recreational marijuana in the state have stalled in the legislature the past few years, the Medical Marijuana Program has grown significantly in Connecticut over that same period, treating over 30 conditions.
Recently the state approved nine new dispensaries in New Haven, Westport, Stamford, Torrington, Meriden, Groton, Newington, Mansfield, and Windham to meet growing demand.
The new facilities, two of which have opened in Meriden and Mansfield, will join the nine others already in operation across the state.
Seagull said one of the primary goals of opening the additional locations is to ensure that every patient who requires medical marijuana does not have to travel too far to be accommodated.