Forward March: Groundswell of Support for Medical Marijuana for People Suffering from PTSD

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March 28, 2014 - By Jessica Gelay

Medical marijuana for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is being recognized by increasing numbers of states and is even winning support at the federal level for clinical study.

In just the last six months Oregon, Maine, Michigan and Nevada have announced approval to include PTSD as a qualifying medical condition in their state medical marijuana programs. Earlier this month the US Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service Secretary gave federal approval for a study of medical marijuana with veterans suffering from PTSD. And, last but not least, this month a clinical study demonstrating improvement in the health of people with PTSD after using medical marijuana has been published in the respected Journal of Psychoactive Drugs.

However in Arizona, there has been pushback. Recently, Arizona State Senator, Kimberly Yee blocked the federally-approved study, despite its approval by the Arizona House of Representatives. And of course, the DEA is notorious for undermining efforts to simply study the medical benefits of marijuana by ignoring decades of scientific studies, blocking research, and issuing outright lies about marijuana. (You can take action and tell the DEA to get out of the way by clicking here.)

In 2009, New Mexico became the first state to specifically list PTSD as a qualifying medical condition for medical marijuana and Connecticut and Delaware followed. Today, veterans and others from post-traumatic stress suffering injured by trauma have access to this medicine in ten states. And DPA played a role in several of these victories by supporting the efforts of advocates on the ground with an evidentiary packet summarizing the findings of more than a dozen peer-reviewed published studies and including personal testimony from veterans and psychiatrists who have found medical marijuana beneficial for themselves and their patients suffering from PTSD.

New Mexico psychiatrist, Dr. George Greer, took an interest in studying the effects of medical marijuana on patients with PTSD after New Mexico approved the condition in 2009 and admits that he was skeptical that it would be helpful, but patients were asking for this medicine so he undertook the investigation. Among the 80 New Mexicans surveyed “a [g]reater than 75% reduction in CAPS symptom scores were reported when patients were using cannabis compared to when they were not.”

This is great, but we have to do more and do more now to help veterans and others suffering from PTSD. Consider this, in just the time researchers waited for the Department of Health and Human Services to issue approval more than twenty-four thousand veterans took their lives. And twenty-two more took their lives today.

Jessica Gelay is policy coordinator for the Drug Policy Alliance.

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