Number of States Allowing Marijuana Use for PTSD Grows
The Democratic Governor of New York, Andre Cuomo, made headlines today. He announced that he had signed legislation that helped New York join the growing number of states that have legalized Marijuana for PTSD treatment.
The number of states that allow use of Cannabis for treatment of PTSD now stands at twenty eight. According to the Marijuana Policy Project, a pro legalization group, the number has increased sharply since 2015 which shows a rapidly growing acceptance within the country. Alaska, a 29th state, also allows people over 20 to buy Cannabis legally though its medical marijuana programs does not include PTSD as legal grounds for buying the drug yet.
The veterans’ groups have welcomed the move as they had been advocating for the legalization for a while.
Mark DiPasquale, a retired staff sergeant said that he had been prescribed 17 different opioids, anti-depressants and other medication for post-traumatic stress, recurring migraines and injuries that he suffered during active duty, including a helicopter malfunction in Iraq in 2005.
“I just felt like a zombie, and I wanted to hurt somebody,” DiPasquale told the reporters. He is one of te founders for the Rochester, a New York-based advocacy group called Veterans Cannabis Collective Foundation. The organization intends to educate veterans about the drug and how it can help them cope with PTSD.
DiPasquale had been campaigning to include PTSD in New York’s medical marijuana program for two years. Although he himself had qualified for the medication due to having other conditions, he felt the drug helped his anxiety, sleeplessness and other PTSD symptoms and could help others who may not get qualified otherwise.
The veteran noted that he still has PTSD, but the drug has really helped him recover and cope with the problem.
“I’m back to my old self.” said DiPasquale. “I love people again.”
The issue has become very important among veterans. The American Legion which has more than 2.2 million members had been urging the Federal Government to let the Department of Veterans Affairs doctors prescribe medical marijuana in states where it is legal. Since last year, the Legion has been campaigning to relax federal regulations on the research on cannabis for medical purposes. That is a hard shift from the organization’s century long earlier stance.
Verna Jones, the executive director of the legion, was supportive at a news conference held in the capital in the beginning of this month.
“People have asked (why I am for it), Are you not the law and order group?’ ’ Why, yes, we are,” he said. But “when veterans come to us and bring to my attention that a particular treatment is working for them, we owe it to them to listen and make way to do the scientific research required.”
Veterans Affairs Secretary, Dr. David Shulkin, recently noted that “we are beginning to get some evidence about the effectiveness of this treatment and it may be helpful.” He did point out however that the agency is prohibited from assisting patients to get the drug.
Though Marijuana first became legalized in California in 1996, it took 13 years for New Mexico to become the first state that legalized its use for PTSD patients. The number of states allowing its use specifically for PTSD has jumped since 2014.
Michael Krawitz, is a disabled Air Force veteran. He runs the Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access, a Virginia based advocacy group which has the goal of legalizing Cannabis for treatment of PTSD.
There are some who are still skeptical. The chairman of the New York Senate veterans’ affairs committee, Senator Thomas Croci, voted against adding PTSD to the state’s program, suggesting the drug might just mask their symptoms.
“The sooner we let them live, and experience the kind of emotions we all do, based on an abstinence induced environment, the sooner it will be for to return home,” said the Republican Senator who is a former Navy intelligence officer himself. He is also a current reservist who served in Afghanistan.
The American Pshychiatric Association is also skeptical and believes there is still not enough evidence to suggest a link between Cannabis use and PTSD treatment. The Vietnam Veterans of American group agrees.
“You would not have cancer treatments that are not approved. For yourself or your family members.” says Dr. Thomas Berger, head of the VVA group. “Marijuana should be subjected to the same scrutiny.”
Advocates of Medical Marijuana usage point out that research into testing the drug’s ability to treat PTSD has been difficult given the Government’s tough regulations in the U.S.
A clinical trial, approved by the government, for the treatment of PTSD through Cannabis is being conducted in Phoenix. Results from the experiments could be ready to be submitted for publication in a couple of years, according to one researcher.
SOURCE: Robert Bergman