Medical marijuana PTSD bill's failure is "shameful," advocate says
Yesterday, as we reported, a bill calling for post-traumatic stress disorder to be added to the conditions approved for treatment by medical marijuana came before the House committee on State, Military and Veterans Affairs. But it was rejected by a 6-5 vote.
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army
Sensible Colorado's Brian Vicente, attorney and co-author of Amendment 64, has been fighting for this cause since at least 2010. He's clearly frustrated by this turn of events, as well as some of the misinformation heard during testimony. But he's not ready to give up.
"This is something Sensible Colorado has worked on for four years-plus," Vicente notes, "and it seems that time and again, the government has acted to prevent PTSD sufferers from ready access to medical marijuana. We think the vote last night was just shameful."
The roots of this issue stretch back to 2000, when Colorado approved Amendment 20, a ballot measure that legalized medical marijuana in the state. A20 includes a list of conditions approved for MMJ treatment, but also provides a way for others to be added. Here's the pertinent section of the document:
"Debilitating medical condition" means:As you can see, post-traumatic stress disorder is not listed in the amendment. As a result, Colorado veterans who use marijuana to address PTSD symptoms risk losing their federal benefits by doing so.
(I) Cancer, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus, or acquired immune deficiency syndrome, or treatment for such conditions;
(II) A chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition, or treatment for such conditions, which produces, for a specific patient, one or more of the following, and for which, in the professional opinion of the patient's physician, such condition or conditions reasonably may be alleviated by the medical use of marijuana: cachexia; severe pain; severe nausea; seizures, including those that are characteristic of epilepsy; or persistent muscle spasms, including those that are characteristic of multiple sclerosis; or
(III) Any other medical condition, or treatment for such condition, approved by the state health agency, pursuant to its rule making authority or its approval of any petition submitted by a patient or physician as provided in this section.
Since 2010, Vicente and other advocates have attempted to alter this situation via legislation and two separate petitions to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. But the 2010 bill failed due in part to health department lobbying against it -- and the CDPHE rejected petitions that year and in 2012 without holding a hearing.
In 2014, however, Vicente and legislators such as Representative Jonathan Singer took another shot at getting the legislature to act.
As we've reported, the latest PTSD legislation, known as House Bill 14-1364, was extremely simple. The two-page document "adds post-traumatic stress disorder to the list of debilitating medical conditions for the purposes of the use of medical marijuana," it states, with a safety clause noting that "the general assembly hereby finds, determines, and declares that this act is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, and safety."
Representative Jonathan Singer in a photo from his campaign website.
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.
"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."
Moreover, Vicente feels Wolk "had a complete misunderstanding of the timeline about how medical marijuana evolved in Colorado."
Continue for more about the failure of the medical marijuana PTSD bill, including additional photos.