The Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (“AMMA”) permits the regulated use of marijuana for the treatment or alleviation of a “debilitating medical condition.” A medical association petitioned the Arizona Department of Health Services (“DHS”) to add Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”) to the list of debilitating medical conditions. DHS granted that petition, but conditioned permitted use under AMMA on a physician’s written certification that such use was palliative and that the patient was participating in conventional PTSD treatment. The medical association appealed DHS’s decision to an administrative law judge and the superior court, both of which affirmed DHS’s decision.
The Court of Appeals concluded that the DHS conditions were within DHS’s administrative authority, did not violate equal protection rights of individuals with PTSD, and did not change the requirements imposed by AMMA in violation of the Voter Protection Act (“VPA”). The statutory language of AMMA stated that DHS had the final decision-making authority to approve or deny the petition, and the legislature was not required to expressly grant to DHS the ability to impose conditions on that approval. Moreover, the Court noted that DHS had authority to, and did, consider the “unique risks and potential benefits surrounding the use of medical marijuana to treat PTSD. . . .” DHS’s decision did not implicate equal protection concerns because all individuals suffering from PTSD were treated similarly and the medical association did not demonstrate that requiring different treatments for different conditions violated equal protection rights. Finally, the Court concluded that the VPA was not implicated because DHS did not require a specific type of medical treatment for PTSD in violation of AMMA.
Judge Thumma authored the opinion; Judges Howe and Portley concurred.
Posted by: Willim D. Furnish