Will Mississippi’s List of Qualifying Conditions for Medical Cannabis Soon Be Expanded?

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Pursuant to the Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act, Mississippi residents can petition the state’s Department of Health to add new serious medical conditions or their treatments to the existing list of conditions that qualify a prospective patient for a medical marijuana card (Miss. Code Ann. § 41-137-17). Exercising this authority, the DOH recently made it easier for Mississippi residents to petition the agency to add conditions to that list, which currently includes the following conditions and treatments:

  • Cancer
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Glaucoma
  • Spastic quadriplegia
  • Positive status for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
  • Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS)
  • Hepatitis
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Sickle-cell anemia
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Agitation of dementia
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Autism
  • Pain refractory to appropriate opioid management
  • Diabetic/peripheral neuropathy
  • Spinal cord disease or severe injury

Also qualifying is a chronic terminal or debilitating disease or medical condition or its treatment that produces one or more of the following:

  • Cachexia or wasting syndrome
  • Chronic pain
  • Severe or intractable nausea
  • Seizures
  • Severe and persistent muscle spasms, including, but not limited to, those characteristic of multiple sclerosis

The Mississippi State Department of Health, via the official medical cannabis program website (mmcp.ms.gov), just recently provided clarity on how to submit such a petition and what information a petitioner should include. A petitioner must submit the following information:

  1. Contact information – name, email address, phone number, physical residence address information, and preferred method of contact
  2. Interest in MS Medical Cannabis Program
    • Mississippi citizen
    • Mississippi-licensed MD, DO, NP, PA, or optometrist
    • Other licensed healthcare professional
    • Non-licensed healthcare professional
    • Licensed mental/behavioral health specialist
    • Pharmacist
    • Law enforcement
    • Public health professional
    • Current/Prospective MMCP business licensee
    • Current/Prospective industry employee
    • Current/Prospective MMCP patient
    • Current/Prospective MMCP caregiver (individual or entity)
    • Lobbyist
    • Attorney
    • Elected or appointed public official
    • Trade association member
    • Cannabis equipment supplier
  3. Proposed Disease, Disorder, or Condition Details
    • “’Disease, disorder, or condition’ refers to a state of health that generally requires treatment or intervention following its diagnosis by a licensed medical professional acting within their respective scope of practice and is chronic and/or debilitating in nature.”
    • Formal name of condition (Petitions lacking clinically appropriate nomenclature will not be considered.)
    • ICD-11 Code (hierarchal level will be considered)
    • ICD-11 Description
    • Supporting documentation (Must attach a minimum of three scholarly articles or research papers justifying indication of medical cannabis use for the proposed condition. Peer-reviewed sources preferred. Items from inappropriate sources will not be considered.)

The department must either approve or deny a petition within sixty (60) days after submission, and such a final decision is subject to the judicial review provisions of the Medical Cannabis Act and Mississippi common law:

  1. A lawsuit must be commenced within twenty (20) days after the decision.
  2. If a Mississippi resident, the lawsuit must be filed in the circuit court in petitioner’s county of residence.
  3. If a non-resident, the lawsuit must be filed in the Circuit Court for the First Judicial District of Hinds County, Mississippi.
  4. A well-developed record at the department level is key, as the judicial review is limited to the information contained in the record made before the agency.
  5. In addition to the information submitted by the petition via the online petition portal linked above, a hearing may also occur related to the petition. A wise petitioner should ensure such hearing is officially transcribed and recorded.
  6. Mississippi courts uphold agency decisions that are “(1) supported by substantial evidence; (2) not arbitrary or capricious; (3) within the scope or power of the agency; and (4) not a violation of the aggrieved party’s constitutional or statutory rights.” Ray v. Mississippi Dep’t of Pub. Safety, 172 So.3d 182, 187 (Miss. 2015).

Whether this new, formal process results in the department adding new conditions is yet to be seen. It is notable, however, that the department has taken this important step to exercise the authority that the legislature provided to the department.