Colorado Officially Approves Medical Marijuana for PTSD

Colorado has added Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Acute Stress Disorder to the list of qualifying conditions, and the first psychological conditions, eligible for treatment by medical marijuana, as reported in the April 28, 2017 online edition of 5280, Denver Colorado’s Mile High Magazine. Colorado state lawmakers decided that physicians should be allowed to recommend medical marijuana in treating PTSD symptoms in adults, but also decided that there should be additional safeguards in place when it comes to allowing children under the age of 18 to be similarly treated.

Although there are several forms of treatment for the disorder, including various types of therapy, exercise, dietary interventions, and medications, currently there is no cure for PTSD, and Colorado has one of the highest suicide rates in the country. Prior to the passage of Senate Bill 17-017, Colorado was the only state to formally deny a request to add PTDS to the list of approved conditions for the use of medical cannabis. One of the issues bogging the bill down was language allowing medical marijuana to be recommended for patients under the age of 18 who were diagnosed with PTSD.

An amendment to the bill sponsored by Representative Timothy Leonard stipulates that two physicians, one of whom must be a board-certified pediatrician, a board-certified family physician, or a board-certified child and adolescent psychiatrist who is part of the family’s medical care team, must prescribe medical marijuana for any person under the age of 18, and each of the patient’s parents residing in Colorado must consent to this treatment in writing to the state health department, with one parent consenting in writing to serve as the patient’s primary caregiver.

On the Colorado General Assembly website SB17-017, which was sponsored by Senator Irene Aguilar and Representative Jonathan Singer, a summary of the bill states that “The bill creates a statutory right to use medical marijuana for a patient with acute stress disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder. The bill creates the same rights, limitations and criminal defenses and exceptions as the constitutional right to use medical marijuana.”

5280 reports that Matthew Kahl, executive director of the 501(c)4 nonprofit Veterans for Natural Rights, has been a vocal advocate for this policy change. After serving two tours in Afghanistan, Kahl was tormented by intense PTSD flashbacks and says marijuana is the most effective treatment he’s found to ease his otherwise debilitating symptoms. He was among a cohort of veterans who pleaded their cases for using marijuana to ease PTSD symptoms before the Colorado Board of Health in July 2015. He and a group of veterans and other individuals living with PTSD also advocated for SB17-017, and brought a lawsuit against the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) to appeal the Board’s 2015 decision.

With the passage of SB17-017, Colorado joins twenty other states, Guam and Puerto Rico in approving PTSD as a qualifying medical condition for access to medical marijuana.