Press Release  | 06/06/2014

Judge Thomas Shedden Orders State of Arizona to Add PTSD to the List of Debilitating Conditions Eligible for Medical Marijuana

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Arizona On the Road to Becoming Twelfth State to Provide PTSD Patients Access to Medical Marijuana

Veterans, Medical Professionals and Advocates Winning in Three Year Quest To Change Arizona Law and Acknowledge Medical Marijuana’s Benefit for PTSD

Phoenix, AZ - After years of hard-fought efforts a coalition of patients, medical professionals, and advocates succeeded in demonstrating the medical safety and efficacy of marijuana for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to the Administrative Law Judge who heard the case. The Arizona Dept. of Health has denied all petitions submitted previously.

On Wednesday, June 4, 2014 Judge Thomas Shedden issued his ruling saying that “a preponderance of evidence shows medical marijuana provides palliative benefit to those suffering from PTSD.” The decision is now in the hands of Will Humble, Director of Arizona Dept. of Health Services;  Humble has until July 9th, 2014 to accept or appeal Judge Shedden’s decision.

The Drug Policy Alliance’s Freedom to Choose campaign, which advocates for veterans’ access to medical marijuana contributed a compilation of published studies and personal testimony from psychiatrists in New Mexico and veterans who use medical marijuana to alleviate symptoms of PTSD. “The pioneering effort to add post-traumatic stress to New Mexico’s medical cannabis program in 2009, and the work that veterans and advocates did to protect PTSD as part of the program in 2012, has led to this swell of support around the nation,” says Jessica Gelay, Policy Coordinator, in the New Mexico office of the Drug Policy Alliance. “Veterans and all people who have suffered from serious trauma and violence deserve the freedom to choose the safest treatment for their debilitating conditions. When our veterans come home they deserve access to the medicine that works for them.”

Arizona’s veteran population is 530,693, ranking it thirteenth among states with the largest veterans’ populations. Emerging evidence from on-going studies in Israel, supported by the Israeli government, show that marijuana is effective for combat veterans experiencing symptoms of PTSD that are treatment resistant.

Veterans like Ricardo Pereyda of Tucson, who fought in combat in Operation Iraqi Freedom 2 and testified in the hearing are elated. “Being able to treat multiple symptoms from post-traumatic stress with cannabis has been instrumental in my ability to lead a full and productive life,” said Pereyda, “Judge Shedden showed that politics does not have to trump science, and doing so showed his compassion for combat veterans and others who have suffered from traumatic events.” Pereyda served in the U.S. Army and Military Police Corps.

“Cannabis medicine is natural, gentle, non-toxic, and should be available to PTSD sufferers in Arizona,” said Heather Manus, president of the Arizona Cannabis Nurses Association.  “Many PTSD patients in neighboring states are successfully finding relief of symptoms through the use of cannabis.” The AZCNA filed the petition with the Arizona Department of Health Services on behalf of veterans and other PTSD sufferers to add PTSD as a debilitating condition under the state’s medical marijuana law. “This ruling could help a lot of Arizonans. Not just combat veterans, but people with chronic illness and pain who can’t find relief from other medications.”

The judicial ruling in Arizona puts it on the road to becoming the twelfth state to permit people suffering from PTSD to legally access medical marijuana. In fewer than twelve months four states (OR, ME, MI, NV) added PSTD to their medical marijuana programs. With Arizona coming on board people in twelve of the twenty-two states with medical marijuana laws would have legal access if they suffer from PTSD.

“It is heartening to see Judge Shedden’s decision takes into account both research and patient experience.  He acknowledges the credibility of evidence from medical professionals who treat patients with PTSD and people who suffer from PTSD.” says Drug Policy Alliance Staff Attorney Tamar Todd, a national expert in marijuana law.

Dr. Sue Sisley of the University of Arizona, who is the principal investigator of a proposed study to look at the effects of medical marijuana on combat veterans suffering from PTSD has been diligently pursuing the necessary government approvals required to begin her work. "Twenty-two veterans a day are killing themselves," said Dr. Sue Sisley, "Many of these veterans are not benefiting from conventional medicines, and some find their syndrome is worsened by standard medications and the practice of poly-pharmacy.” Dr. Sisley’s study was recently approved by the US Department of Health and Human Services after a three year delay. “The Obama administration is hearing this, because allowing us to do this study does represent a major shift in policy."

Contact:  Tony Newman 646-335-5384 or Jessica Gelay 505-573-4422

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