Marijuana: Vets group supporting Amendment 64 after health department's PTSD non-ruling

Way back in May, Sensible Colorado's Brian Vicente made a second request to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to add post-traumatic stress disorder to the allowable conditions for a medical marijuana card in Colorado.

Vicente got his answer in the form of a no-answer.

According to Vicente, the CDPHE has not responded to his request, essentially killing it by not giving it the time of day.

"There is significant evidence demonstrating the benefits of marijuana for individuals with PTSD, and in 2010, the Department of Veterans Affairs formally announced it would allow patients treated at its hospitals and clinics to use medical marijuana in states where it is legal," the group wrote in a press release yesterday. "The petition to add PTSD to the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana was submitted on behalf of Iraq War veteran Joe Hatcher on May 29, 2012. In order to approve the petition, the CDPHE must schedule a public hearing in front of the Board of Health within 120 days. The petition has effectively been denied because 120 days have elapsed since the filing and a hearing was not scheduled."

This is the second time the CDPHE has denied PTSD as a qualifying condition. The first was back in September 2010.

CDPHE spokesman Mark Salley told Westword yesterday morning that the window for the CDPHE to respond to the petition has not yet closed. But Salley also said that "department is not considering any new petitions to add a medical condition to the registry," pretty much confirming that PTSD won't be considered by the state health department. Salley added that a response to the petitions would be made "within the time allowed." He did not make clear what day that would be.

That doesn't work for a group of vets, who now say their only option for safe access to cannabis is the passage of Amendment 64. Vietnam vet Bob Wiley is heading the Veterans for 64 campaign, which announced its formation yesterday at a press conference in Colorado Springs.

"The state's failure to act is an effective denial of this compassionate petition," Wiley said in a statement. "Our only option is to support Amendment 64, which will ensure that Coloradans 21 and older who suffer from PTSD will no longer be subject to arrest and prosecution for using marijuana to alleviate their suffering."

That includes vets like Denver's Sean Azzariti. A soft-spoken guy who usually wears a big smile, Azzariti says he suffers from debilitating anxiety that stems from two tours in Iraq with the Marines.

His assignment during both tours was base security at an airfield in Iraq -- checking non-military personnel coming and going from the base, including food vendors and janitorial crews contracted out to third-country nationals. A lot of the time, tensions were high simply due to the heightened security, and as Azzariti points out, nobody likes being hassled. Nevertheless, there was always a very real threat of danger.

"You don't know what you are really dealing with. Any time you go to search someone's car, it could blow up. We had a big concrete wall about ten feet high by twenty feet wide that they would have to go park behind, and that is where we would search it. [The danger] is always looming over you, literally."

Continue to read more of our interview with veteran Sean Azzariti about PTSD and marijuana.

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William Breathes
Contact: William Breathes

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