Sane laws that, let us hope, are universal throughout the states within a decade or so.
But, despite Coloradans' herbal far-sightedness, there's a problem. An infuriating problem that should have been resolved with a modest legal tweak years ago, but was blocked once again this week by a 6-5 vote in a state House committee.
Amendment 20 sets forth the "debilitating medical conditions" for which medical marijuana is legal. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is not included. But the law includes means for adding conditions to the list. For years, Brian Vicente, attorney for Sensible Colorado and author of Amendment 64, which legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, has tried to get PTSD added to the list. Six states now accept a diagnosis of PTSD as grounds for giving someone a medical marijuana ID card.
Why should this matter now that military veterans afflicted with PTSD who want to relieve their symptoms can buy recreational pot in Colorado from the same dispensaries that sell it to people who just want to get a buzz on? The problem is that if they self-medicate this way they can lose their federal benefits since the law does not recognize pot as a legitimate treatment.
Please read below the fold for more on this situation.
Both legislative efforts and two petitions to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment have been employed to get PTSD listed. To no avail. The health department has refused to hold a hearing on the matter. This year, Democratic state Rep. Jonathan Singer introduced House Bill 14-1364, which would have added PTSD to the list. At a hearing on the bill before House Committee on State, Military and Veterans Affairs Monday, CDPHE representatives testified against the move. As Michael Roberts at Westword reported:
Among those who spoke against the measure at yesterday's hearing was Dr. Larry Wolk, who's served as the CDPHE's executive director and chief medical officer since last September.Last month, the federal government finally has signed off on a single PTSD-mariuana study, but its results could be a long time coming.
"His argument against the bill was essentially that there's not enough data out there to show that PTSD is assisted by cannabis," Vicente notes, adding, "The CDPHE says they need federal studies, but the federal government won't authorize those studies. So the department has basically been in lockstep with the federal government, putting hurdles in front of any progress in this area." [...]
In the meantime, Vicente says, "we're still hearing from dozens of veterans and PTSD sufferers every year who want this to be recognized as legitimate medicine. We need to figure out if we'll work again with honorable representatives like Jonathan Singer or petition the state health department. But we feel this is an important issue to keep fighting for."
For years during and after the Vietnam War, the U.S. government did not recognize PTSD as a medical condition at all. Indeed, members of the armed services were sometimes dishonorably discharged for behavior stemming from PTSD, thus losing any benefits they would otherwise have received, including medical treatment.
It makes no sense now for Colorado—or any of the other 14 medical marijuana states that don't recognize pot as treatment for PTSD—to continue to do so.