PTSD now qual­i­fies as med­i­cal pot con­di­tion

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Ali­cia Wal­lace

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 to treat PTSD symp­toms.

Colorado doc­tors could be­gin to make those PTSDspe­cific 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.

Wolk pre­vi­ously spoke in fa­vor of PTSD’s ad­di­tion, namely so the state could have more ac­cu­rate data on pa­tients who were rec­om­mended med­i­cal mar­i­juana.

“A lot of peo­ple were us­ing med­i­cal mar­i­juana for PTSD but ob­tain­ing it un­der other di­ag­noses,” Wolk said Tues­day. “We wanted more trans­parency to what those num­bers looked like, what that pop­u­la­tion looked like.”

It’s the first new qual­i­fy­ing con­di­tion added un­der the state’s med­i­cal mar­i­juana law since it was im­ple­mented in 2001.

“Mar­i­juana is not a panacea. But to take it off the ta­ble or to say ‘Try it recre­ation­ally to see if it helps your ma­jor men­tal ill­ness’ isn’t the way to go,” said Rep. Jonathan Singer, DLong­mont, who co-spon­sored the bill with Sen. Irene Aguilar, D-Den­ver. “Be­fore you go to a dis­pen­sary, talk to a doc­tor.”

The in­clu­sion of PTSD to the list of qual­i­fy­ing con­di­tions has been a hotly con­tested is­sue.

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.

Af­ter the board of health’s most re­cent de­nial of the pro­posed ad­di­tion of PTSD, pro­po­nents sued the state. That case is pend­ing in Colorado Ap­peals Court and prob­a­bly will be dis­missed, said the Hoban Law Firm’s Adam Fos­ter, the at­tor­ney rep­re­sent­ing the PTSD pa­tients.

Pro­po­nents have ar­gued that it’s not cost-ef­fec­tive for adults with PTSD to pur­chase recreation­al mar­i­juana as a po­ten­tial treat­ment for their ail­ments. They’ve said there is lim­ited avail­abil­ity on the recreation­al mar­ket of suit­able mar­i­juana prod­ucts — heavy in the nonpsy­choac­tive com­pound cannabid­iol, or CBD, and low in te­trahy­dro­cannabi­nol, THC. Sep­a­rately, ad­vo­cates for mil­i­tary veter­ans say those in­di­vid­u­als are at risk of los­ing their ben­e­fits if they use recreation­al mar­i­juana.

Med­i­cal and men­tal health ex­perts 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 symp­toms of a com­plex psy­chi­atric dis­or­der.

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