Yes on 64 is Help for PTSD Patients

Originally appearing here. A new television ad from the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, backers of Amendment 64 on the November ballot, features Marine Corps veteran Sean Azzariti. Normally, one wouldn’t expect to see a member of the military coming out in support of an initiative to make the adult possession of marijuana legal. But Sean has a good reason. Like hundreds of thousands of other veterans in the U.S., Sean suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), stemming from his two tours of duty in Iraq. He tried to alleviate his stress and anxiety through the use of pharmaceutical products prescribed to him by the VA, but they did not help. Eventually, having heard from many other veterans that marijuana was useful in diminishing PTSD symptoms, he decided to see if it could provide him some relief. He describes the effect in the ad: “Marijuana helped me from the moment I started using it,” he explains. “It calmed me down. It slowed my heart rate down. My anxiety was gone almost immediately.” Sean is far from alone in seeking relief with this substance. In New Mexico, where the state added PSTD to its list of qualifying condition for medical marijuana after conducting research to study its potential effectiveness, there are between 2,000 and 3,000 patients legally using medical marijuana for the condition. Unfortunately, when similar petitions have been filed in Colorado to have PTSD added as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana, state officials have refused to even hold a hearing to consider the matter. They have used as an excuse the lack of research, despite being fully aware that the federal government has obstructed research by refusing to provide marijuana to researchers who have been given FDA approval to study the therapeutic benefits of marijuana for PTSD patients. Sean and other veterans with PTSD simply cannot wait for the federal government to end its obstruction of research or for the Colorado state government to become more open-minded. They need relief now and would have legal access to that relief if Amendment 64 is adopted. Of course, helping veterans like Sean is not the only reason to support Amendment 64. And, as much as I want individuals with PTSD to have safe and legal access to marijuana, I would not suggest to other voters that they should base their vote on this factor alone. Amendment 64, most of all, would put an end to marijuana prohibition. Like alcohol prohibition in the last century, marijuana prohibition does not prevent people from using marijuana; it only ensures that gangs and cartels control the marijuana trade and a dangerous and sometimes violent market. By passing Amendment 64, we would take marijuana sales out of the hands of criminals and have them take place instead in state-licensed and regulated stores. Regulated sales will provide a stream of tax revenue to the state — a portion of which would be used for public school construction and repairs — and will ensure that access to marijuana is restricted through ID checks. There is also a crucial public safety component to Amendment 64. Currently, we have significant law enforcement resources dedicated to enforcing marijuana prohibition, both in terms of stopping illegal cultivation and arresting more than 10,000 Coloradans annually for possession. It is time to direct those limited resources toward preventing and investigating serious crimes. I hope that you will vote for safer communities, for new revenues for our state, and, most of all, for veterans like Sean, by voting yes on Amendment 64. The Gazette reports on requests from Colorado veterans suffering from PTSD to have access to medical marijuana. Amendment 64, which passed on November 6, now allows the legal use of marijuana statewide.