Can I Get a Medical Marijuana Card for Chronic Kidney Disease?

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Chitral Hays -- not his real name -- is Jackalope Ranch's resident expert on medical marijuana in Arizona. In Perfectly Blunt, Hays delivers news, reviews, and must-know info. This week he's answering one reader's MMJ question.

I have been battling chronic kidney disease for about three years now, if I provide my diagnosis would I be able to obtain a medical marijuana card? I am sick of pain pills they do nothing but cause more problems. Thanks. -- Elizabeth M.

The short answer to your question is no. The Arizona Department of Health Services does not list kidney disease as a condition that qualifies a patient for medical marijuana use. (You can view the full list of qualifying conditions at www.azdhs.gov.)

However, chronic renal disease (also known as CRD, another term for chronic kidney disease) can involve severe and chronic pain and/or severe nausea. If you suffer from one of those conditions and have a doctor's recommendation, then you would qualify you for a medical marijuana card for in Arizona.

See also: Can a Snowbird Get a Medical Marijuana Card?

For a full rundown of how to obtain a medical marijuana card in Arizona, consult our four-step guide.

If you don't have severe and chronic pain or severe nausea or you simply would like to see CRD added to the health department's list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana use, then you can petition the department to add it. That's thanks to Prop 203, the law that legalized medical cannabis in Arizona. That means, while CRD currently isn't recognized as a qualifying condition, there's a chance that one day it could be. You can petition the health department here.

California, Maine, and New Jersey already allow medical cannabis for CRD treatment based on a doctor's discretion -- so it's not unheard of. Washington state approved medical marijuana for treatment of CRD in 2010, noting that cannabis (which has been repeatedly proven to treat nausea) can help with side effects from dialysis.

Medical-grade cannabis can help with pain management, but there are still alternating schools of thought as to whether weed helps or hurts the kidneys. Claims that marijuana injures the kidneys often point to smoking as a damaging factor, but there are alternative methods of ingesting cannabis, including vaporizing, tinctures, and infusing the drug into food.

Additionally, a joint study by the University of Calgary and the University of Alberta concluded that, "Even small improvements in symptoms with the use of THC:CBD [cannabinoids, the active ingredients in cannabis] in patients with difficult-to-treat symptoms may be clinically meaningful."

It seems, if you avoid smoking it, much more evidence exists that cannabis can help with the side effects of CRD, including nausea, loss of appetite, and weight loss. However, there isn't evidence that marijuana prevents or cures CRD. So, is MMJ worth a shot? Well, that's something you should ask your doctor.

Contact the author with your questions or comments via chitral.hays@gmail.com

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