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State approves medical marijuana for ALS patients

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KAT WADE / Special to the Star-Advertiser

The state Health department has appoved medical cannabis prescriptions for patients with Lou Gehrig’s disease.

State Department of Health officials said today that they have added Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, to the list of qualifying conditions for medical cannabis use in Hawaii.

The decision was based on a rigorous review and analysis of written and oral testimony, as well as a public hearing and peer-reviewed scientific evidence, according to the department.

Of the 29 states and U.S. jurisdictions that permit medical marijuana, 19 include ALS as a qualifying health condition, health officials said. ALS is a progressive, neurodegenerative disease that mainly involves the nerve cells responsible for controlling voluntary muscle movements involved in chewing, walking, breathing and talking.

Although the Hawaii health department found little evidence to support the value of medical cannabis for ALS, it determined that it may be appropriate for patients diagnosed with the condition after receiving an assessment by a patient’s physician or advanced practice registered nurse and discussion on the risks and benefits, officials said.

The decision was the result of a petition process, initiated in April, that allows patients, physicians and advanced practice registered nurses to advocate for adding new debilitating medical conditions to the list of conditions that could benefit from the use medical marijuana.

ALS was one of two petitions that the department received and reviewed. The other was for general anxiety disorder, which health officials declined to add to the list, citing inconclusive medical evidence and the potential for adverse outcomes.

The deadline to petition for additional health conditions, which can be done online, is Feb. 19.

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