Recent changes to Washington’s medical marijuana policies mean that state residents suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may now qualify for medical cannabis.
State medical providers may now authorize the use of medical cannabis under Senate Bill 5052 to treat both PTSD and traumatic brain injuries, a move that veterans like Dante Cammarata are applauding.
A former U.S. Army medic who served during the invasion of Iraq, Cammarata spent much of his time overseas treating wounds and dispensing medication to other soldiers. When he returned to U.S. soil and had his own serious, although less apparent, medical problems stemming from his time abroad, he found that the cannabis plant helped him immensely. So much so, in fact, that he credits the plant with saving his life.
Now, he hopes that medical marijuana will provide others the same relief it gave him and believes it may help reduce the number of veteran suicides while also reducing veteran reliance on prescription medications. According to one estimate, one out of every five veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from PTSD, and Cammarata believes those suffering should be able to seek relief with medical marijuana without fearing being on the wrong side of the law. He says,
“We served this country proudly, and we don’t want to be seen as criminals for trying to help ourselves.”
To date, research on medical marijuana in relation to treating PTSD is inconclusive. However, one state-funded study is already underway in Colorado, and the executive director of the Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access reports that Washington is now one of 11 U.S. states to list PTSD as a qualifying condition for legally obtaining medical cannabis.
While medical marijuana cards have not been historically difficult for Washington residents to attain, this may also be affected by the passage of Senate Bill 5052. Furthermore, Washington medical marijuana dispensaries have not, to date, been closely regulated, although this too may change under the state’s new regulations.
The new legal changes will more closely define what medical conditions are considered grounds for medical marijuana authorization, and they are also expected to make it more difficult for medical providers to distribute program cards.
Colorado has long been at the forefront of the revolution to legalize marijuana. Now, the state is once again taking strides to make the most of the booming, relatively new industry through its recent Marijuana and Health Symposium.
Held at Denver’s National Jewish Health, the conference presented an opportunity for health professionals and consumers alike to learn more about the various medical uses of marijuana. Attendees also explored almost a dozen recent studies on the effects of cannabis on a variety of different medical conditions, including seizures and insomnia.
One of the stories shared at the symposium was that of 15-year-old Coltyn Turner, a recent Colorado transplant and longtime Crohn’s disease sufferer. Coltyn and his family moved from the Midwest last year and are one of many families flocking to Colorado to get cannabis-related medical treatments that are, to date, not allowed in most states. Turner said of his decision to turn to cannabis oil to help alleviate the symptoms of the disease known to cause abdominal pain, severe cramps and related complications:
“I’d rather be illegally alive than legally dead. I was just on every pharmaceutical there was out there until I wound up in a wheelchair.”
Diagnosed at age 11, Coltyn (photo above) had become progressively sicker over time and had all but given up when his family, in search of a miracle, chose to move to Colorado to try cannabis oil. He began taking it four times a day, and the results were far from disappointing. In the year since they moved, the Turner family said, Coltyn went from spending time in hospital beds to spending it on Colorado mountaintops.
Now, events such as the Marijuana and Health Symposium are helping researchers and medical professionals further explore the role cannabis can play in treating various diseases.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Ken Gershman explained that nine other studies are either in process or in the planning stages, and that these studies explore everything from marijuana’s effect on inflammatory bowel disease to whether it is an effective treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. Gershman spoke on the need to continue research the role of cannabis on various medical conditions:
“We can’t bury our heads in the sand. We need to learn more and make sensible decisions based on evidence.”
After their own experience and seeing the dramatic changes in Coltyn after beginning treatment with cannabis oil, Coltyn’s family members hope that, in due time, those who would benefit from medical marijuana will come to view it as something to try immediately, rather than as a last resort.
Coltyn holding a cannabis oil capsule