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After years of lobbying by veterans, Colorado adds PTSD as medical marijuana condition

After years of lobbying by veterans, Colorado adds PTSD as medical marijuana condition

Post-traumatic stress disorder is now a qualifying condition for doctor-recommended medical marijuana in Colorado.

Gov. John Hickenlooper on Monday signed Senate Bill 17 into law. The act opens the doors for Colorado residents to receive a doctor’s OK to use medical marijuana in the treatment of PTSD symptoms.

Colorado doctors could begin to make those PTSD-specific recommendations in as early as a week — or enough time to provide for the state’s information technology office to update the forms, said Dr. Larry Wolk, executive director and chief medical officer for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

It’s the first new qualifying condition added under the state’s medical marijuana law since it was implemented in 2001. The state’s eight other qualifying conditions are: cancer, glaucoma, HIV or AIDS, cachexia, persistent muscle spasms, seizures, severe nausea, and severe pain.

The inclusion of PTSD among Colorado’s medical marijuana qualifying conditions has been a hotly contested issue of recent years.

Coordinated bids led by veterans groups and supported by residents with PTSD fell short as the Colorado Board of Health quashed requests for PTSD’s inclusion. Legislative measures languished in the General Assembly.

The Colorado Board of Health has not added any new qualifying conditions since the medical marijuana law’s inception, citing lack of “peer-reviewed published studies of randomized controlled trials or well-designed observational studies showing efficacy in humans,” officials have previously told The Cannabist.

After the Board of Health’s most recent denial of the proposed addition of PTSD, proponents filed suit against the state. That case is pending in Colorado Appeals Court.

Proponents have argued that it’s not cost-effective for adults with PTSD to purchase recreational marijuana as a potential treatment for their ailments, adding that there is limited availability of suitable marijuana products — heavy in the non-psychoactive compound cannabidiol (CBD) and low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — that have been claimed effective for symptoms such as anxiety, nightmares and pain. Separately, advocates for military veterans say those individuals are at risk of losing their benefits if they use recreational marijuana.

Members of Colorado’s medical and psychiatric communities have expressed concern about the inclusion of PTSD as a qualifying condition, calling for more qualified research on the potential benefits and harms of using the product to treat aspects of a complex psychological condition.

As Senate Bill 17 moved through the legislature, those concerns were directed primarily toward the allowance of medical marijuana for children and teens diagnosed with PTSD.

The bill was amended to include a stipulation that one of the two recommending physicians required for patients under the age of 18 be a pediatrician, board-certified family physician or board-certified child and adolescent psychiatrist who is part of the family’s medical care plan.

This story is developing and will be updated.

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Published at Tue, 06 Jun 2017 14:45:59 +0000