Medical marijuana community fights health department's PTSD policy

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Colorado Springs dispensary owner Drew Milburn, a veteran, doesn't like the state health department's opposition to using medical marijuana to treat post-traumatic stress disorder -- and he's not alone.

Team 420 has scheduled a protest against the department at noon today (get info below) -- and Sensible Colorado is in the process of drafting a PTSD petition.

In March, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment actively lobbied against an amendment to HB 1284, the just-signed bill to regulate the MMJ industry, that would have added PTSD to the list of conditions medical marijuana has been approved to treat. The amendment, sponsored by Representative Sal Pace, was subsequently defeated, and that's frustrating to Dan Pope, Sensible Colorado's volunteer patient outreach coordinator. "I see it as callous behavior on the part of Dr. Ned Calonge," Colorado's chief medical officer, who weighed in on medical marijuana in a December interview accessible here.

Likewise, Pope is frustrated by Veterans Administration policies against medical marijuana.

"I get numerous phone calls and e-mails every month from veterans whose doctors are unwilling to write them medical marijuana recommendations due to the VA situation," he notes. "I've learned that most of the VA doctors aren't actually vets themselves. They're interns launching their medical careers, and a lot of them have told vets who've contacted us, 'If it were up to me, I'd sign a recommendation, but I'm just starting my career, and I don't dare jeopardize my future by signing one.'"

Given these factors, Sensible Colorado plans to push for changes on numerous fronts. First up is the petition directed at the health department, which will urge Calonge and company to recognize PTSD as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana treatment in Colorado. Pope is hoping that physicians -- likely ones in private practice rather than a part of the VA system -- will lend their support to the argument as a way of backing up anecdotal support from vets.

Not that Pope is expecting the CDPHE to suddenly capitulate. "We anticipate that the health department will deny it," he concedes.

That's why Sensible Colorado is simultaneously "looking for some good people to be a plaintiff in a possible lawsuit.

At this point, the organization is also planning an upcoming veterans-themed event, possibly around July 4, to further publicize the cause.

Team 420, fronted by activist Robert Chase, plans a more in-your-face approach at today's protest, to be staged at the health department's HQ. Here are the details:




Patients and caregivers will gather at the headquarters of the CDPHE to protest the unconstitutional abrogation of caregivers' rights represented by the five-patient-per-caregiver limit supported by Chief Medical Officer Ned Calonge. The General Assembly and the State bureaucracy are acting to restrict access to medicine and to drive up its already high cost. The burden of their animus against medicinal cannabis falls hardest on indigent patients, and will soon deprive many of the medicine they need to relieve their suffering.

The State of Colorado has accepted over ten million dollars ($10,000,000) in patients' registration fees through the ten years of the medical cannabis program's existence, but it has failed to implement that program. Instead it has taken arbitrary decisions prejudicial to the interests of patients and caregivers, has done so repeatedly, and been found by Judge Naves to have violated Colorado's law on open government in the process. The CDPHE's failure to process patients' applications in a timely manner has increased the delay in issuing patients' identification cards to six months or more and resulted in the denial of patients' applications on the grounds that the money orders used to pay the registration fees have expired. Patients demand that the CDPHE issue licenses to all bona fide applicants whose payments it has failed to cash.

Colorado's medical cannabis community stands united behind Colorado' constitutional protections of patients and caregivers, and against the predatory politicians and bureaucrats who have set themselves above the Law. Protesters will demand that the CDPHE meet its constitutional and statutory obligations to patients and to the public's health. They will also send the message to the Prohibitionists who thought to undo what the People placed in the Constitution ten years ago that they will not be re-elected.

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