The state medical marijuana advisory board on Tuesday voted to deny five applications to be included on the list of conditions qualifying people for medical marijuana, despite board members acknowledging that patients with the medical conditions have been prevented from using medical cannabis on several occasions could benefit.
The board turned down offers to approve medical marijuana for the treatment of traumatic brain injury, hepatitis, hepatitis C, chronic insomnia unresponsive to other treatments, and major depressive disorder unresponsive to other treatments.
The 367,925 active medical marijuana patients in Pennsylvania were all diagnosed with one or more of 23 serious medical conditions – including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, anxiety disorder, cancer, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder, opioid use disorder, and chronic pain.
General doctor Dr. Denise Johnson said board members were concerned that the traumatic brain injury, hepatitis and hepatitis C requests were too broad and would have allowed people to qualify for medical marijuana cards if it were inappropriate. The chamber was concerned that adolescents might qualify for medical marijuana if they suffer acute traumatic brain injuries. Johnson said there was evidence that medical marijuana could benefit patients with chronic hepatitis and chronic hepatitis C, but board members felt it was inappropriate to allow medical marijuana for people who had acute cases of hepatitis.
A change in the board’s motions was prevented by the board’s own guidelines.
According to the existing guidelines of the board of directors, board members have no way of changing an application submitted to them – the board must either forward the proposed new condition to one of its subcommittees to recommend the change, or the board can notify applicants to submit the application to the Submit changes requested by the board, said Carol Mowery, assistant legal advisor for the Department of Health.
“It seems like a complicated way to get ahead,” said Dr. William Goldfarb, member of the advisory board.
Molly Robertson, another advisory board member, described the situation as “ridiculous” for delaying board approval even though board members seemed to have a consensus that medical marijuana should be allowed for people with chronic hepatitis and chronic hepatitis C.
“I don’t know why we should keep her waiting to add a word to the proposal,” she said. “The bottom line is that the patients are waiting.”
The board only meets quarterly, so it can only vote on the change in November.
Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam said the department and the advisory board will investigate whether or how the committee’s approved process can be changed to change qualifying conditions requests more quickly.
The board’s decision to reject chronic insomnia and major depressive disorder was less controversial after Johnson found that the board’s review concluded that there was no evidence that medical marijuana would benefit patients with these conditions.