Combat veterans in New Jersey won a small victory in their quest to obtain legal medical marijuana when a legislative committee agreed to advance a bill that would legalize the drug for PTSD treatment.
Phillip Dume, 28, was one of the veterans who testified before a committee on June 2 to advocate for medical marijuana as a tool to help veterans deal with PTSD, according to the Bergen Record.
"I tried to commit suicide when I first came back," said Dume, a 28-year-old Trenton resident. "I was one of those guys."
Dume was given a medical marijuana prescription to help him deal with the pain from a knee replacement but told the lawmakers he soon realized it had other positive effects.
"It helps me out," he said, per the Record. "It’s one reason I’m able to speak to you guys. It helps me focus. It helps me calm down. It helps me sleep."
A growing number of veterans groups have been pushing for more studies on the ways medical marijuana could help former service people deal with issues like anxiety, fear and depression. The groups have said U.S. policies make it difficult to study the potential positive effects of scheduled drugs, a complaint echoed by research scientists.
"In light of all evidence currently available, it is striking that the FDA refuses to investigate cannabinoids for the treatment of anxiety disorders like PTSD yet they have approved studies of MDMA, the club drug Ecstasy, for the treatment of PTSD," the group Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access wrote in a statement.
In New Jersey, proponents might face an uphill battle to expand the state's medical marijuana program, the Record reported, with Republican Gov. Chris Christie calling it "a front for legalization" in 2014. The June 3 hearing -- and agreement to advance the bill to the state legislature -- is the first step toward gauging lawmakers' attitudes on the proposal.
State Assemblyman Tim Eustace, a Democrat and co-sponsor of the bill, said he hopes the governor's attitude softens when it comes to military veterans.
"There’s been more research on [medical marijuana's] efficacy,” Eustace told the Record. "And I think the governor sees that veterans are not as well treated as they should be and that this is a way to lift that."