A lot of people are confused about why we would need to add Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or any condition to the list for medical marijuana now that we’ve legalized recreational use in Colorado. They assume people can find whatever they need at the rec stores. Unfortunately, that perception is mistaken.
First, although technically cannabis is cannabis whether used medicinally or recreationally, it’s important to realize that there is a great variety in strains and product options. The needs of medicinal users are different from those of recreational users. Recreational users are primarily looking for the fun, euphoric effect of THC (hence, the recreational part). Medicinal users are looking for relief from symptoms which may include THC, but also cannabinoids such as CBD and CBN that may not be abundant in recreational strains. Therefore, the strains and products available through the rec market can be quite different and may not satisfy the needs of medical users including those suffering from PTSD.
Second, some laws and regulations recognize the value of medical marijuana and allow for its use. The newly passed Medical Marijuana on Probation bill is a prime example where those already licensed to use marijuana medicinally may continue its use while on probation under certain conditions. This new law does not accommodate recreational use. Currently, someone using marijuana medicinally for PTSD would not qualify, even if it is the only medicine that works, unless they had a medical marijuana license for another qualifying condition.
Third, when considering military veterans, the Veterans Administration requires that vets using cannabis be participating in a State marijuana program. Currently, in order to fulfill those requirements, veterans suffering from PTSD in Colorado must get their medical marijuana recommendation for another condition such as chronic pain in order to qualify. Those veterans who did not sustain physical injuries may still suffer from PTSD but are unable to qualify for medical marijuana. Adding PTSD to the list would remedy this situation.
From the VA San Diego Healthcare System:
VHA policy does not administratively prohibit Veterans who participate in State marijuana programs from also participating in VHA substance abuse programs, pain control programs, or other clinical programs where the use of marijuana may be considered inconsistent with treatment goals.
As marijuana use is still a federal offense VA will not provide for use or conduct research with illegal substances regardless of state laws. However, patients who participate in a non-VA marijuana program will not be denied access to care for VA clinical programs, but should be assessed for misuse, adverse effects, and withdrawal. While patients participating in State marijuana programs must not be denied VHA services, the decisions to modify treatment plans in those situations need to be made by individual providers in partnership with their patients.
Fourth, having a medical marijuana license enables a patient to engage the services of a caregiver. This is particularly important in areas of the state with bans and moratoriums in place where access to the recreational system is limited. We’re finding some veterans are creating informal support groups by working with other veterans as caregivers who have personal knowledge and understanding of PTSD and can provide additional help and assistance.
Fifth, recreational marijuana is subject to taxes not imposed on medical marijuana. This can make it harder for those already struggling to pay bills to afford the medicine they need if they have to purchase through the rec system. Prescription pharmaceuticals aren’t taxed. There is no prescription drug benefits when it comes to medical marijuana, forcing patients to pay 100% out of pocket for their medicine. This can be quite cost-prohibitive, especially when taxes are included.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, patients and clinicians need to be honest in their discussions about healthcare and treatment options. If a patient is using cannabis to treat PTSD, wouldn’t their physician want to know that? Patients need to feel free to have this discussion with their doctors, and doctors need to listen to what their patients are telling them. Without this open conversation, how are doctors to provide adequate treatment or counseling? How are patients to get quality care? And how will we move from anecdotes to research without documented stories and case studies from patients?
Simply sending patients to the recreational market for medicine isn’t good enough. To serve veterans and others suffering from the debilitating effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, the Colorado Board of Health must add PTSD to the list of conditions qualifying one for a medical marijuana license.
On July 15, the Board of Health will be voting on whether or not to add Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder to the list of conditions for medical marijuana. We need your help to get this through. PLEASE email the Board of Health at firstname.lastname@example.org encouraging them to take this important step and add PTSD.
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