Shawn Beals / ctnewsjunkie
Department of Consumer Protection’s Physicians Board approves new conditions for medical marijuana program (Shawn Beals / ctnewsjunkie)

HARTFORD, CT — The Medical Marijuana Program Board of Physicians has recommended adding chronic pain and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome to the list of approved conditions for the use of medical marijuana.

The doctors met Friday morning, where they also declined to add night terrors/parasomnia to the list of approved medical conditions because of a lack of research into the use of cannabis for treatment.

Neither chronic pain nor Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome was recommended for patients under 18.

The board’s vote begins a lengthy review period for state agencies to draft regulations for chronic pain and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome patients to eventually participate in the program. Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner Michelle Seagull said the process can take about a year.

If both conditions receive favorable internal reviews they will be added to the 31 conditions available to more than 37,000 patients in Connecticut currently certified to use medical marijuana. There are now about 1,200 physicians and APRNs registered to certify patients, and 15 dispensaries.

Chronic pain is a broad symptom that can be difficult to diagnose on its own, the doctors said Friday during their discussion on adding it to the approved list. They recommended that for patients with chronic pain, doctors also must document a chronic pain period of 6 months or more, an underlying condition causing the pain and that other treatments have failed.

“There are many people who are on chronic opioids who potentially could benefit from being able to lessen their opioid doses,” said Dr. Andrew Salner, one of the five board members at the meeting Friday. “The sister plug for this is that it would be a way of helping to address some of the opioid issues in our society today by potentially making available therapy patients might not otherwise have as an alternative.”

In 2018, the board refused to add opioid use disorder as a condition for the medical marijuana program.

The board heard testimony in June on the need for chronic pain to be available as a condition that qualifies for medical marijuana.

The decision to consider Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome came from doctors on the board, while night terrors/parasomnia was considered after receiving a petition from the public.

Dr. Vincent Carlesi said EDS, as Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome is known, causes joint problems, spinal disease, musculoskeletal system disorders and impacts to the central nervous system.

“The majority of these patients really want to avoid opiates because it really doesn’t help them,” Carlesi said. “They all have chronic pain, unfortunately. All of my EDS patients are very interested in having medical marijuana as an option for their pain, and also they have sleep disturbances and muscle spasms.”

Connecticut patients first became eligible for medical marijuana in 2012, when 11 conditions were included in legislation approved by the state legislature. New conditions have been added since then after review by the physician board.

Lora Rae Anderson, spokeswoman for the Department of Consumer Protection, said since September 2018 there have been 5,987 patients added to the state’s medical marijuana registry. The rate of patients being certified has not decreased since recreational marijuana use became legal in Massachusetts at the end of last year.