New Hampshire’s medical marijuana program has more than doubled in size since 2016. About 4,700 patients were enrolled in the program by the end of 2017.
Michael Holt is the Therapeutic Cannabis Program Administrator for the Department of Health and Human Services. He joins us now to talk about how the state’s medical marijuana program has grown.
(Editor's note: this transcript has been edited lightly for broadcast.)
I know that all of the data you have, of course, of patients there's confidentiality to think about here. But what do we know, or what can we call publicly from that data?
We are tracking the qualifying medical conditions that all our patients have. Those qualifying conditions are established by the legislature. They range from epilepsy, to chronic pain, to HIV/AIDS, cancer, etc. The population base has a range of qualifying conditions.
And you've got people as young, as the report says, as five, but you have patients up to the age of 99. Can you tell us what the data suggests? Do you have more of one particular age group or another, or one bigger group of particular ailments that stand out?
Certainly, the vast majority of our patients are in the age range that you would typically think of as having these qualifying conditions. They're in the 40, 50, 60-year-old age range. The number of minor patients is very low—eight as of last June, I believe 11 as of current data.
So most are middle-aged to senior citizens?
Most of that data was compiled for the state report before New Hampshire expanded its program to include more conditions like PTSD and moderate to severe chronic pain. Do you have any insight into how the change has affected the program?
We did not see the influx of patients that some predicted over the past six months. However, more than half of the new patients, I believe 755 of the patients, have one of these new conditions: PTSD, chronic pain and severe pain.
For you, when you look at the data that you have so far on this program, is there any particular stat that stands out to you?
We issue a patient satisfaction survey as part of the data report. One of the new questions that we asked patients [is] if they were able to reduce the number of prescription medications that they've been taking since becoming a patient of the [Alternative Treatment Center]. Now this is a voluntary patient satisfaction survey. So the number of respondents wasn't great. But the response does show that the vast majority of patients who responded have seen a reduction in the number of prescriptions medications that they've taken.
Opioids, I imagine, being part of that.
Are you seeing more acceptance across the state with doctors as to referral for the program?
Absolutely. We've seen similar growth in the number of participating certified medical providers over the past year. This time last year we had 560 individual providers participating. This time this year we have 823. So there has been certainly an acceptance of the program as a potential alternative to other medications.