Looking to expand one of the strictest medical marijuana programs in the nation, Minnesota has now legalized treatment for PTSD as the state continues to look for new ways to apply the benefits of cannabis to the most in need. Even though medical cannabis is still in an early stage when it comes to treating PTSD, insiders are optimistic that the expansion will directly assist suffering Minnesotans who have struggled to find relief with more conventional forms of treatment. While cannabis treatment for PTSD remains complicated, particularly for military veterans due to stringent federal laws, Minnesota could also prove to be a valuable case study on how other states can expand coverage to attack a widespread problem throughout the country.
Although anti-cannabis advocates insist there is still a lack of evidence for successful PTSD treatment, Minnesota moved forward with the change to the medical cannabis program thanks to rigorous input from both field experts and the public. The move will also be able to directly test cannabis’ effectiveness with those who suffer from PTSD, potentially offering significant insight into a relatively dark area of marijuana research. In fact, it was only in April of 2016 that the DEA introduced its first controlled study of cannabis treatment for PTSD sufferers, pointing to the necessity of further study for vulnerable Americans. Despite effecting about eight million people in the U.S. each year, post traumatic stress disorder still doesn’t have a pharmaceutical treatment that is designed specifically to treat the often-debilitating symptoms.
Medical Cannabis for PTSD
Minnesota will now join more than 20 other states that have already legalized cannabis treatment for PTSD, further providing real-life case studies for an area that has often been driven by speculation. Just this year, a growing and diverse list of states have added PTSD to their medical marijuana programs, including states like Ohio, Arkansas, Florida, North Dakota, New Jersey, and more. In addition to directly addressing PTSD symptoms, medical experts are also enthused about the ability to use the benefits of medical marijuana to assist with negative symptoms from other medications typically used to treat PTSD.
It’s also worth noting that Minnesota is easily one of the strictest states in the country when it comes to usage of medical marijuana, as the program only started in 2014 and has expanded very deliberately since then. As of now, Minnesota only has two different licensed medical marijuana cultivators and has significant limitations on the forms that cannabis can be ingested, which is why the recent change could turn out to be such a crucial development for cannabis advocates. If very cautious states like Minnesota can have success with treating PTSD, other hesitant states will have an ideal blueprint of how to proceed into previously unchartered territory.
Following the successful push for PTSD treatments, advocates are also looking to expand treatments for other patients in need. Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and autism are some of the other diseases and disorders that are being pushed as areas where patients might benefit, opening up the door to further expansions both in Minnesota and abroad. As of now, there is a fairly limited number of patients registered to take advantage of the expansion in the state, although that could quickly shift as the program grows in the coming years.
But even though Minnesota’s medical cannabis expansion could prove to be a major step forward for patients with PTSD, it also highlights one of the major conflicts between state and federal law. As states continue to explore legalization for recreational use, those relying on marijuana for medical application could be left out in the cold due to overriding federal law – particularly for veterans who suffer from PTSD. Because of federal law, cannabis treatment for PTSD cannot be covered by the VA (Veterans Affairs), forcing patients to pay completely out-of-pocket or forgo treatment. However, as cannabis programs continue to expand to cover PTSD around the country, the pressure will likely build to overhaul federal marijuana laws that are now widely viewed as outdated and counterproductive.
This post was originally published on August 3, 2017, it was updated on October 4, 2017.