Drug Law

Colorado Health Dept. Lobbies Against Medical Marijuana For Veterans

| by Marijuana Policy Project

DENVER - On Monday, March 22, the Colorado House Judiciary Committee will consider HB 1284, a bill to regulate the distribution of medical marijuana in the state. Rep. Sal Pace will offer an amendment to allow individuals diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder to have access to medical marijuana, if they have a recommendation from a psychiatrist. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is actively lobbying members of the legislature to oppose this amendment.

The actions of the Colorado Health Department stand in stark contrast to the thoughtful process followed by its counterpart in New Mexico, which added PTSD to the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana patients in that state in February 2009. The New Mexico Department of Health's decision followed a recommendation of approval from an advisory board of eight medical practitioners, who examined the evidence and determined that the use of marijuana by patients with PTSD could be a beneficial treatment option, if used in accordance with a recommendation from a psychiatrist.

"We are frankly disgusted by the actions of the Colorado Health Department," said Steve Fox, director of state campaigns for the Marijuana Policy Project. "After a review of the evidence, health professionals in New Mexico agreed that medical marijuana could be beneficial for patients suffering with PTSD. By contrast, health officials in Colorado are attempting to deny veterans and other individuals with PTSD a legitimate treatment alternative based on nothing more than fear mongering and misinformation. We demand that officials in the department publicly release the studies they have reviewed to determine that the risks of using marijuana for PTSD patients outweigh the potential benefits.

"We are further outraged by reports that Colorado Health Department officials are telling state legislators that allowing psychiatrists to recommend medical marijuana to PTSD patients is like giving alcohol to an alcoholic," Fox continued. "The sad irony is that many PTSD patients have serious alcohol problems that worsen their overall state of health. As we have seen in New Mexico, the psychiatrist-advised use of medical marijuana can actually help PTSD patients reduce their alcohol intake, dramatically increasing their quality of life. Moreover, it is widely known that both alcohol and many of the pharmaceutical drugs given to PTSD patients increase the risk of suicide. Marijuana use does not. The Department officials' callous disregard of this fact alone should make them ashamed of their actions."

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