HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH)– Connecticut’s medical marijuana program has been touted as one of the most restrictive in the nation. Now, we could see the program expand to thousands of new patients.
More than 41,000 patients benefit from Connecticut’s medical marijuana program and are able to come to dispensaries. But now that chronic pain has been added, it opens it up to thousands more.
Covid-19 may have postponed the legislative session. But a key regulatory committee got together over Zoom and approved a major change to Connecticut’s 8-year-old medical marijuana program.
“We realized there are thousands of conditions that have pain associated with them and there’s no way that we as a board or the program could think of and approve all of those conditions individually and separately,” said Dr. Andrew Salner, Hartford Healthcare, Medical Marijuana Board of Physicians.
Chronic pain is now among 38 qualifying conditions for adults. A move that could dramatically expand the program to thousands of new patients.
“Our best guess is that there may indeed be twice the number a year from now. I mean, the program may grow that rapidly as a result of this new qualifying condition,” said Salner.
But there are some caveats. The diagnosis has to be longer than six months. And it has to associated with an underlying condition.
“Not somebody who was jogging and pulled a muscle because they’re fine with probably some Tylenol for a few days. This is somebody who has persistent pain and hasn’t responded well to other medications,” said Salner.
Dr. Andrew Salner is one of some 1,200 doctors that certify patients. He’s on the advisory board that unanimously recommended the change and says legalized marijuana in neighboring Massachusetts also played a role in the decision to expand.
Still, Connecticut’s program is considered one of the most regulated in the nation. It’s overseen by the Department of Consumer Protection.
DCP Commissioner Michelle Seagull says she’s happy the state heard from the public and moved to expand treatment options for more patients.