LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) – A new report from the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement shows that 541,673 Arkansans would qualify for medical marijuana.
According to the agency’s All-Payer Claims Database, the top five qualifying conditions are cancer, peripheral neuropathy, glaucoma, epilepsy, and Alzheimer’s. In Pulaski County alone, there are over 71,000 Arkansans who qualify to receive medical marijuana.
The data used to analyze the number of qualifying patients was based on conditions listed in the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment of 2016. However, severe arthritis, intractable pain, severe nausea, severe muscle cramps, and fibromyalgia were not included in the final count due to imprecision or lack of diagnosis codes.
Republican state Representative David Meeks said the number was much higher than anticipated and claimed this high of a number will open medical marijuana up to abuse.
"Folks that may have the condition don't really need medical marijuana and they could be treated in some other way and that opens it up to a lot of other implications," he said.
Meeks is also worried about the 20,000 youth that would be eligible for medical marijuana. He suggested the number is an alarming statistic that Arkansans should be worried about.
"I think it should be very concerning to Arkansans that the abuse could be there and that's going to put more pressure on our foster care system, schools, employers, and just families in general," Meeks said.
Arkansas voters approved Issue 6, or the Medical Marijuana Amendment, last November by narrow margin.
The medical conditions that qualify for medical marijuana are separated into three categories.
- The first includes specific conditions, including cancer, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Tourette’s syndrome, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), severe arthritis, fibromyalgia and Alzheimer’s disease.
- The second includes “chronic or debilitating diseases or medical conditions or their treatments” that produce one or more of the following conditions: cachexia or wasting syndrome; peripheral neuropathy; intractable pain, which is pain that has not responded to ordinary medications, treatment or surgical measures for more than six months; severe nausea; seizures, including without limitation those characteristic of epilepsy; or severe and persistent muscle spasms, including without limitation those characteristic of multiple sclerosis.
- The third category are potential diseases, medical conditions, treatments that the Arkansas Department of Health approves as qualifying conditions. The amendment grants the ADH the authority to add conditions as needed to the list.