The Denver Post

PTSD now qualifies as medical pot condition

- 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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