PHOENIX — A court ruling filed this week has added post-traumatic stress disorder to the list of debilitating conditions that qualify for medical marijuana treatment.
State Department of Health Services Director Will Humble has until July 9 to accept, modify or reject an administrative law judge's ruling that PTSD sufferers are eligible for a medical marijuana registration card.
Humble said Friday that he would study the order before making a decision.
The Arizona Cannabis Nurses Association appealed Humble's denial last December to classify PTSD as an ailment that could be treated with pot.
Humble said he initially denied the group's petition, citing a lack of scientific evidence showing marijuana helps patients with the disorder.
Judge Thomas Shedden, however, said in his opinion that there was substantial evidence that those with PTSD receive a "palliative benefit from marijuana use." Shedden said medical professionals often rely on patients' input for when making off-label prescriptions.
Ricardo Pereyda was among those who testified at the hearing on how marijuana can help with post-traumatic stress. The Iraq War veteran said prescription drugs for his anger, depression and other issues only gave him adverse side effects. It wasn't until he started using cannabis in 2010 that he felt happier and more focused.
Pereyda said he doesn't understand why Humble would take a month to make a decision.
"What is it that you need to wait and see before that day that you haven't seen in the past four days? Get it done. People are dying. And that's not just veterans," Pereyda said.
Having a medical marijuana card would also let veterans and other PTSD victims feel protected legally while seeking treatment.
"What if I got caught with an ounce or something like that? Under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, I would have had a card and it would have been perfectly legal," Pereyda said.
If Humble rejects the judge's ruling, the group can appeal to the Maricopa County Superior Court.
Eleven states currently approve medicinal marijuana for treating PTSD.
In April, veterans lobbied lawmakers to pay for a clinical study at the University of Arizona that looks at the health benefits of medical marijuana. Advocates say that pot needs to be studied to learn how it might be able to remedy post-traumatic stress disorder. They say legislation that would have enabled the state to use part of the fund it receives from sales of medical-marijuana permits was unfairly killed in the legislature.
The University of Arizona received approval from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to conduct long-delayed marijuana research that has been in the works for more than two decades. The approval was an important milestone for the project, but it still needs money from the state of Arizona to carry out the research, along with approval from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.