How we got here: PTSD and that “marijuana magic”

cannabis-01Wednesday is a big day for medical marijuana in Colorado.

The Board of Health will be holding a public hearing about adding Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana. The hearing is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). This is the first time any petition has been opened for public input.

There have been moments along this path that seemed so surreal I can hardly believe they’re happening and that I’m there to participate or witness. They stick in my mind like glue, reminding me that something very special is going on here. The fight against the DUI for THC bill in 2012 and 2013. The House Ag Committee’s hearing on industrial hemp in 2013. The Drug-Endangered Child rally and hearing in 2014. Patients’ Day at the Capitol in 2015. These are moments when the importance of the work we are doing really sinks in.

When I think of how many things had to come together to get this PTSD petition as far as it is, I can only think that this is some of that “marijuana magic” I talk about with my friends. It’s that feeling that the paradigm is indeed shifting. Now, finally, we can speak our truth and people are listening.

SB14-155 that established the Scientific Advisory Council (SAC) was, and still is, a controversial bill. It took $10 million of money that had been over-paid by patients and put it toward research into the benefits and efficacy of medical marijuana. The SAC was responsible for reviewing the grants and making recommendations to the Board of Health.

The CDPHE saw an opportunity to utilize this group of experts (which includes a patient representative) and tasked them with reviewing any petitions to add conditions for medical marijuana. It was shortly after that decision that John Evans submitted a petition to add PTSD, a petition the SAC would review. Had he not submitted the petition when he did, it might never have been seen  or discussed by the SAC.

Previously, decisions on whether or not to recommend a petition were not made in an open and public forum, such as the SAC conducted. There’s no record that I’m aware of regarding review or discussion of previous petitions. And the Board of Health had been petitioned several times to add PTSD as well as other conditions. The answer for the last 15 years has always been no.

Any and all petitions were held to an unreasonable standard of proof: human Randomized Clinical Trials (RCTs), the pinacle of research standards. Of course, under decades of prohibition, that level of research into cannabis simply isn’t there. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has held research hostage, only allowing studies on harm and abuse and forcing researchers to purchase cannabis for studies exclusively from NIDA. However, because the SAC funded RCTs and observational studies, it only made sense to relax the rules on petitions and allow consideration of observational studies as well.

In the meantime, the Office of Legislative Legal Services (OLLS) reviewed this new duty of the SAC and determined that the Board of Health had overstepped its authority because SB155 only authorized the SAC to oversee the grant program. By the time that issue was decided, the SAC had already completed it’s review process and made its recommendation. By a 7-3 vote, the SAC recommended that the Board of Health add PTSD to the list of conditions.

This petition for PTSD could be the only petition the SAC reviews officially, which is key to getting us as far as we are today.

The recommendation was presented to the Board of Health in May at a meeting in the middle of nowhere in Teller County. We managed to get a few people there to hold the BoH accountable in their decision. Although two members were opposed to taking this issue to a public hearing, the final vote was 7-2 in favor. The hearing was set for July 15.

So here we are. Farther than we’ve ever been before. Not just with petitioning for PTSD, but for any condition. In the 15 years since Amendment 20 was passed, the amendment authorizing medical marijuana, every petition has been rejected. Not a single condition has been added despite continued efforts by patients and advocates. So many things had to come together to get us to this place.

Wednesday is a special day. A magical day. A holy day.

Wednesday is the day when patients, families, spouses, doctors, advocates, and others have the opportunity to publicly voice their support of medical marijuana for PTSD. Of course there will be opposition, primarily from psychiatrists and addiction/rehab specialists, but we fully expected that. We shall overcome.

Often times, as I’m heading into an important hearing or meeting, I’m reminded that this is a sacred path we walk. As we’re driving in the car, my husband often hears me reciting the prayer of Father Mychal Judge: “Lord, take me where you want me to go, show me who you want me to meet, tell me what you want me to say, and keep me out of your way.”

We’re each engaged in holy work. We are offering relief. We are healing our state, our nation and the world. We are changing hearts and minds. We are saving lives.

Each and every one of us has a part to play, a role to fulfill. No matter how large or small, no matter how loud or soft, every voice is important. Every patient matters. I believe that if we all play our part, if we all do our job, if we all work together, we will prevail. The truth will set us all free.

After all, we have that marijuana magic on our side.


No matter the outcome, no matter the decision, our work will continue. There’s still so much to be done. Patients are still losing their children, their jobs, their homes, their opportunities for education, their rights to medical care, their freedom.

As you can see, having a voice for patients involved in these decisions is critically important. Cannabis Patients Alliance is that voice. Since 2012, we have been at the forefront of every policy decision affecting medical marijuana patients in Colorado. We need your support!

Join us and join the fight! Add your voice to those of thousands of patients and supporters across Colorado and the country. Please, DONATE NOW or BECOME AN ALLY so we can continue this important work.

Categories: Children, Teens & Youth, Colorado, Elderly & Aging, Family & Relationships, Mental Health, Patients, Policy & Politics, Religion & Spirituality, Research, Veterans, Women

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