Arizona medical marijuana program considering adding more conditions

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By David Baker By David Baker

PHOENIX -- The Arizona Department of Health Services is considering adding more qualifying conditions for medical marijuana.

The department held its first public hearing Friday afternoon on the first group of requests.

Currently patients can receive medical marijuana prescriptions from a doctor if they have been diagnosed with cancer, glaucoma, AIDS, chronic pain, muscle spasm, or hepatitis C.

New suggestions for covered conditions include depression, general anxiety disorder, migraines, and post-traumatic stress syndrome.

Those who spoke out at today's hearing believe the side effects of eating or smoking marijuana could be beneficial for someone with PTSD.

"One of the side effects is memory loss," said Gerald Chesler, an attorney. "Well, that's awfully good if you can't let go of the horrible experiences you've had."

According to the voter-passed 2010 law, the Department of Health Services is required to consider requests to expand coverage.

The state agency isn't against adding more qualifying conditions, but wants to make sure the program isn't abused.

"Ultimately it's really up to the physicians in Arizona to be responsible to only sign certifications where patients will truly benefit," said Will Humble, the director for the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Humble said the department has until July to make a decision on whether or not to add any new conditions.

Friday was also the deadline to submit applications to operate medical marijuana dispensaries.

Up to 126 dispensaries will be allowed in the state.