While several states recognize medical marijuana as a treatment for post-traumatic-stress-disorder (PTSD), Colorado does not. The Colorado Board of Health voted against adding PTSD to the list of conditions which qualify for medical cannabis in June 2015, and now veterans suffering from the debilitating disorder are suing the state for access.
One of those veterans is Curt Bean. He spent his first years as an adult in Iraq as a scout and sniper for the US Army. Like so many others, Bean experienced acute anxiety and depression after returning to the United States.
“I drank a lot, stayed in bed a lot, avoided people,”
Bean was officially diagnosed with PTSD by doctors with the Department of Veterans Affairs. While pharmaceutical treatments for PTSD often involve antidepressants, Bean found that they only magnified his symptoms. He then tried recreational marijuana and was able to find some normalcy.
“I’m sleeping better, I have less anxiety. I’m able to function day to day,”
he said. Bean believes access to medical marijuana is a reasonable request that should be granted to veterans. “It’s legal, and it’s moral and it helps me. Veterans’ lives have been saved by this, so why not get the word out about how powerful it is?”
About 30 percent of the nation’s 22 million veterans suffer from PTSD. Studies have suggested that medical marijuana could treat the stress and anxiety that comes with PTSD. While the medicinal value of cannabis is recognized in nearly half of the United States, VA doctors are not permitted to discuss it with veterans. Legislation has been introduced to change this policy several times, but has yet to pass. With the federal government’s strong stance on cannabis prohibition, it is unlikely that the VA will change its stance on marijuana in the very near future. Currently, VA doctors are not authorized to prescribe medical marijuana and can even prevent veterans who are known to use marijuana from accessing other veteran services.
“The medical system and the medical stores should be accessible to PSTD sufferers because they provide different products, carry different products, different potencies than what’s served on the retail or recreational side,”
said Bob Hoban, who is representing Bean in the lawsuit, along with other veterans.
There have been some legislative efforts that could allow veterans access to medical marijuana, but most have been unsuccessful. Representative Dina Titus of Nevada wrote a policy essay for the Harvard Journal of Legislation, which argued that by denying veterans access to medical marijuana for PTSD, patients would seek relief from illicit drugs that would further degrade their quality of life.
photo credit: Fox 31 Denver