Health

New Jersey Legalizes Medical Marijuana Use For PTSD

| by Kathryn Schroeder
Gov. Chris ChristieGov. Chris Christie

Residents of New Jersey who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) will now have access to medical marijuana.

On Sept. 14, Republican Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey signed a bill allowing PTSD to be included on the list of conditions in which medical marijuana may be used for treatment, NJ Advance Media reports.

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Christie said his support for the bill stems from the estimated 20 percent of veterans who come home from Iraq and Afghanistan with the debilitating illness.

Even though the bill authorizes medical marijuana to be used as a treatment for PTSD, doctors will have to try other forms of treatment first in order to prevent misuse, Christie’s bill-signing statement said.

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"The mere potential of abuse by some should not deter the state from taking action that may ease the daily struggles of veterans and others who legitimately suffer from PTSD," the governor wrote.

Christie’s decision is a major win for supporters of medicinal marijuana for qualifying PTSD sufferers.

A petition was started in August on Change.org by The Joint Blog to tell Christie to sign the legislation into law. It received 18,158 signatures -- more than 6,000 signatures short of the required 25,000 that would have sent the petition to the governor.

In the end, the petition was not needed since Christie followed the lead of both the New Jersey Senate and the New Jersey Assembly by accepting the measure and making it law.

"I am pleased that Gov. Christie agreed with our legislation that finally empowers doctors to treat veterans and other PTSD patients with this indisputably effective medicine," said New Jersey State Sen. Joseph Vitale, a Democrat who was a lead sponsor of the bill.

Democratic Assemblyman Vincent Mazzeo of New Jersey also agrees.

Veterans -- especially post-9/11 veterans -- are the group most affected by PTSD. The VA has stated that it wants each veteran to find the medication with the least amount of side effects that allows them the optimum level of independence. For many, medical marijuana is the drug that best fits that criteria and the only one to provide veterans with significant relief from the anxiety associated with PTSD.

There are currently six diseases that New Jersey has qualified for medical marijuana treatment: amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease); multiple sclerosis; terminal cancer; muscular dystrophy; inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn's disease; and any terminal illness with a prognosis of less than a year.

Those suffering from seizure disorders including epilepsy, intractable skeletal muscular spasticity, glaucoma, and, under certain circumstances, HIV, AIDS, and cancer, may also qualify if conventional medicine has failed.

A recommendation for medical marijuana by a doctor is required.

Sources: NJ Advance MediaChange.org / Photo credit: Change.org