PTSD Proposed For Oregon Medical Marijuana List


Arizona Medical Marijuana Blog

Medical marijuana advocates in Oregon want to add post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to the official list of conditions that qualify patients to use medicinal cannabis.

Many people with PTSD are already in Oregon’s medical marijuana program because they have other medical conditions that allow them to legally use marijuana, according to advocates, reports The Associated Press.
Medical cannabis activists said that it’s particularly important PTSD be included on the list as more and more battle-weary military veterans return home, reports Noelle Crombie at The Oregonian.

The debate, of course, is politically charged, since it pertains to marijuana; the outlaw status of cannabis under federal law makes it a lightning rod for medical controversy, as well as for re-fighting the ideological and cultural battles of the 1960s. 
Two previous tries to add PTSD to Oregon’s medical marijuana program have failed; Colorado and Arizona health officials also both recently rejected efforts to add the condition to their medical programs. Only New Mexico’s medicinal cannabis program recognizes PTSD as a qualifying condition.
The inclusion of PTSD on New Mexico’s list has had a significant impact. According to the N.M. Department of Health, 40 percent of medical marijuana patients in the state list PTSD as their qualifying condition — more than for any other reason.
It’s no surprise that law enforcement officials in Oregon oppose extending the medical marijuana program to PTSD patients.
About 300,000 veterans live in Oregon, including more than 20,000 from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Nearly 20 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan vets reported PTSD symptoms in a 2008 Rand Corporation study.
“We treat it like any other new treatment technique: We want to see it studied,” said Jason Hansman, senior program manager for the 145,000 members of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. “We want to see increased research to see if it’s a viable solution.”
There’s an “overabundance of case reports” suggesting marijuana does help those suffering from PTSD, according to Dr. John H. Halpern, assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and researcher at McLean Hospital near Boston. Halpern presented a case study paper recently in in which marijuana dramatically helped a PTSD sufferer.
Scientific studies aside, anecdotal reports from the veterans themselves support the idea that cannabis is good for treating PTSD.
“If I get racing thoughts and real worked up, it can break a panic attack pretty quick,” said Jared Townsend, a 27-year-old Iraq War veteran who depends on marijuana to help him sleep. He qualifies for Oregon’s medicinal cannabis program due to severe pain from a ruptured disc and injured shoulder from his 2007-08 combat tour.
Expanding Oregon’s program to cover PTSD or other conditions isn’t easy. First, someone must submit a petition to add a condition. Then the state convenes a panel of experts to review it. The Oregon Health Authority picks the members of the panel, which in the past has included people who oppose using marijuana medically for any use, according to advocates.
Since medical marijuana was legalized by Oregon voters in 1998, only one new condition — agitation related to Alzheimer’s disease — has been added to the list of qualifying conditions.