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October 26, 2013

Summersgill says eliminate qualifying conditions for medical mj, use doctors' judgment

On October 21, Councilmember Yvette M. Alexander, Chairperson of the Committee on Health, held a public oversight roundtable on the state of the District of Columbia Medical Marijuana program. Former GLAA president Bob Summersgill submitted the following comments for the record:

October 21, 2013

Mr. Ronald King
Senior Policy Advisor
Committee on Health
Council of the District of Columbia
Chairperson Yvette M. Alexander
John A. Wilson Building
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20004

Thank you for the opportunity to testify for the record. I recommend that you eliminate the list of qualifying medical conditions in both the Code and the regulations. Leave the determination of whether or not a patient will benefit from medical marijuana to their physician.

The list of qualifying medical condition defined in Regulations 22-C9900 and in the D.C. Code § 7-1671.01.17 has failed to keep up with evolving medical treatments and research.
(17) "Qualifying medical condition" means:
      (A) Human immunodeficiency virus;
      (B) Acquired immune deficiency syndrome;
      (C) Glaucoma;
      (D) Conditions characterized by severe and persistent muscle spasms, such as multiple sclerosis;
      (E) Cancer; or
      (F) Any other condition, as determined by rulemaking, that is:
        (i) Chronic or long-lasting;
        (ii) Debilitating or interferes with the basic functions of life; and
        (iii) A serious medical condition for which the use of medical marijuana is beneficial:
          (I) That cannot be effectively treated by any ordinary medical or surgical measure; or
          (II) For which there is scientific evidence that the use of medical marijuana is likely to be significantly less addictive than the ordinary medical treatment for that condition.

Human immunodeficiency virus, or in current jargon, HIV disease does not seem to benefit from marijuana. Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), or late stage HIV disease is generally not helped by marijuana. Wasting disease, or cachexia, which is associated with late stage HIV disease, is aided by marijuana.

Glaucoma is not helped by marijuana. High pressure in the eyeball is significantly decreased by marijuana, but it spikes, and wears off with the drug. What is needed is a long-term and steady reduction in eye pressure.

You may want to refer to the Institute of Medicine’s report Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base (1999) For full disclosure, I work for the same organization as the Institute of Medicine (IOM), The National Academies, but in an unrelated unit and I was not involved in developing the report in any way.

Although the report is considered the best compilation on medical marijuana available, it is dated, now 14 years old. Medical research has advanced considerably since the IOM report, and it will continue to advance.

Policymakers are not able to keep up with the changes in medical developments and research, nor should policymakers be expected to be experts on medical treatments. However, medical doctors are expected to be those experts. Doctors remain current on the efficacy and safety of medical marijuana and their judgment should not be constrained by laws and regulations that are quickly out of date.

I strongly recommend that you eliminate the qualifying medical conditions in both the law and the regulations. Let doctors determine whether or not their patient will benefit from medical marijuana.


Commissioner Bob Summersgill
Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3F07
3701 Connecticut Avenue, NW #139
Washington, DC 20008


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