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Michigan Adds Cerebral Palsy to List of Conditions for Medical Marijuana Program

Access to cannabis treatment has expanded alongside the state’s burgeoning recreational sales.

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Michigan Adds Cerebral Palsy to List of Conditions for Medical Marijuana Program
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Michigan’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) has announced that cerebral palsy will join the list of medical conditions that make patients eligible for enrollment in the state’s medical marijuana program. Its addition, approved by unanimous decision and announced on Monday, expands the number of qualifying conditions in the state to 28.

The most common qualifying condition cited by the 292,905 patients in the state’s medical marijuana program is chronic pain, followed by muscle spasms and severe nausea. 41,000 care providers are licensed to provide Michiganders with cannabis to help managing the symptoms of cancer, HIV/AIDS, PTSD, wasting syndrome, and various other conditions.

Past studies have proven that medical cannabis can have tremendous effects on the symptoms of cerebral palsy. Tel Aviv’s Wolson Medical Center hosted a study of 36 children with the condition, many who had high levels of motor disorders. They were treated with two kinds of cannabis oil, one with a THC-CBD ratio of 1:6 and another of 1:20. Within three to four months, doctors reported in 2017 that motor function, pain symptoms, and bowel movements had all improved in study participants.

A 2011 study conducted by the National Institutes of Health found that the use of marijuana was the most effective treatment for pain among people with cerebral palsy.

Michigan legalized medical marijuana back in 2008, but it took the state six years to get a regulatory system in place, and didn’t open a state-licensed cannabis dispensary, or “provisioning center” as Michigan terms the locations officially, until November 2018. In December, state lawmakers legalized recreational marijuana, authorizing the Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act.

But Michigan’s authorities continue to deal with fall-out from the lag in medical marijuana implementation, as the delay and the sets of “emergency rules” that it occasioned gave unlicensed growers and distributors a chance to establish themselves. The state has given these unauthorized entities until the end of the month to obtain the proper permitting or close down. At the start of the year, officials shuttered 72 unlicensed distributors.

Concerns have been raised in the past that any lock-out of these unlicensed dispensaries could cause interruption in supply to the state’s medical marijuana patients, particularly given past criticisms that the state’s system has not moved nimbly enough when it comes to processing applications for license in a timely fashion. But state officials hold that the transition is essential to guarantee that individuals are receiving high quality marijuana, arguing that unlicensed distributors are far more likely to sell un-tested product.

Earlier this month, LARA announced that medical marijuana sales at the state’s 54 licensed dispensaries have reached $42 million, amounting to roughly $2.5 million in tax revenue for the state.

Additional qualifying conditions for the medical marijuana program are added to Michigan’s list through a petitioning process. The licensing department also took the opportunity to announce that a petition for Chronic Aggressive Behavior had been denied after a review panel’s unanimous recommendation.  

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