Maine Lawmakers Expand Medical Marijuana Program to Include PTSD

The Daily Chronic
Thomas H. Clarke

Originally appearing here.

Lawmakers in Maine have passed a bill that will expand the list of qualifying ailments for medical marijuana to include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), inflammatory bowel disease, dyskinetic and spastic movement disorders, and other diseases causing severe and persistent muscle spasms.

State law currently allows doctors to certify patients only if they meet one of several specific conditions: cancer, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, Crohn’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease), hepatitis C, Alzheimer’s disease, seizure disorders, severe muscle spasms and intractable pain.

Lawmakers in both chambers voted Wednesday to approve the bill, “An Act To Add Conditions That Qualify for Medical Marijuana Use.”

The bill, LD 1062, was originally suggested by the Committee on Health and Human Services, and was sponsored by six lawmakers, including Rep. Diane Russell (D-Portland).

New Mexico, Connecticut and Delaware are the only states that specifically recognize PTSD as an eligible condition for medical marijuana. Lawmakers in Oregon passed a bill earlier this month to expand their medical marijuana program to allow treatment of post-traumatic stress, which takes effect January 1, 2014.

A small handful of other states, like California, allow doctors the discretion to legally recommend marijuana for PTSD patients.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is an anxiety disorder that is estimated to impact some eight million Americans annually, yet there are no pharmaceutical treatments specifically designed or approved to target symptoms of PTSD.

While recent studies have shown that medical marijuana can benefit patients suffering from PTSD, clinical trial data remains largely unavailable, mostly because US federal officials have blocked investigators’ efforts to study cannabis in PTSD subjects.

In 2011 federal administrators halted efforts by investigators at the University of Arizona to complete an FDA-approved, placebo-controlled clinical trial to evaluate the use of cannabis in 50 veterans with treatment-resistant PTSD.

Military veterans returning from combat often suffer symptoms of post-traumatic stress, which has become an increasingly alarming epidemic for members of the military. Veterans’ suicides outnumber combat deaths. A recent study found that on average 22 veterans commit suicide every day, one every 65 minutes.

New Mexico’s medical marijuana program is a nationally recognized model for supporting patients with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. Today, more than 3,700 New Mexican residents with PTSD are actively enrolled in New Mexico’s Medical Cannabis Program.

Most of them are military veterans, patients living with disabilities, and victims of serious trauma and violent crime.

“When I returned home from Afghanistan I was diagnosed with PTSD. I worked with my doctor and tried many prescription drugs. Taking handfuls of pills every day, every one with a different set of side effects was hard on my body, and I still experienced some symptoms,” said New Mexico resident Michael Innis, who served in the military and who was awarded a Purple Heart after the convoy he was traveling with got hit by an IED and was then ambushed.

“Cannabis was not my first choice of medicine, but I can tell you first-hand, this medicine works for me. Cannabis allows me to leave my house and has helped me to return to work.”
The Daily Chronic reports on the decision of lawmakers in Maine to allow PTSD to be accepted as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana. The article provides testimonials from people who have used medical marijuana for PTSD with success, in addition to mentioning how our FDA-approved medical marijuana research for treating PTSD is facing obstacles.