Colorado Board of Health to Consider Adding PTSD on MMJ Debilitating Conditions List

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The Colorado Board of Health will hold a meeting tomorrow that could result in another affliction being added to the Medical Marijuana Registry's list of debilitating conditions. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, a rising problem among combat veterans, will be considered for approval during a public rule-making hearing aimed at updating the state's medical marijuana regulations.

Proponents of cannabis use for PTSD – currently on the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's list of denied debilitating conditions – are hoping the disorder will join HIV/AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, cachexia, spasms, severe pain, severe nausea and seizures as an approved condition for medical marijuana. If the state okays that move, it will be following the lead of the United States Senate, which recently passed a bill that allows Veterans Health Administration doctors to prescribe medical marijuana for patients in states where it is legal. 

Roger Martin, director of Operation Grow4Vets and U.S. Army veteran, thinks some of Colorado's currently accepted conditions pale in comparison to PTSD and hopes the addition is approved after years of neglect. "Colorado is way behind the times in recognizing that American heroes deserve a safe alternative to the prescription medication the VA is shoving down their throats," he says. "It's my hope that they rise up and provide the vets with the same safe access that many enjoy."

However, according to a statement on the National Center for PTSD website, more scientific studies on THC's effects on a traumatized brain are needed before doctors should prescribe marijuana. "The belief that marijuana can be used to treat PTSD is limited to anecdotal reports from individuals with PTSD who say that the drug helps with their symptoms. There have been no randomized controlled trials, a necessary 'gold standard' for determining efficacy," it says.

Studies on marijuana and PTSD had been sparse because of the plant's illegality, but that has been changing as more states embrace medical marijuana and consider recreational legalization. In January, Colorado granted over $2 million to the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies for a study in which veterans are given 0.9 grams of pot per day for inhalation and asked to document their mental health. In March, the federal government approved a long-delayed study for MAS to study marijuana's effects on fifty more veterans suffering from PTSD. In another move that could promote further study on PTSD and any other condition with potential relief from marijuana, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced that it had ended the Public Health Service review process for federal marijuana research.

The state's Medical Marijuana Scientific Advisory Counsel, made up of doctors, scientists and other health officials who consider petitions for accepted medical conditions, recommended that PTSD be added to the approved list by a vote of 7-3 in April.

PTSD is considered a cause of the rising number of veteran suicides. According to a 2014 study published by the Congressional Research Service, since 2000 there have been 164,817 documented military deaths related to diagnosed PTSD. The Veterans Administration estimates that up to 20 percent of veterans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq suffer the anxiety, flashbacks, depression and sleep deprivation associated with PTSD.

Other potential changes under review at the hearing will be the removal of two notary requirements, a change to timelines of Colorado-granted medical research, and the removal of the Medical Marijuana Scientific Advisory Counsel's role in reviewing petitions concerning medical marijuana conditions.

The meeting will take place at 10 a.m. Wednesday, July 14, in the Sabin-Cleere Conference Room at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Building, 4300 Cherry Creek Drive South.

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