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Colo. Board Denies Vets with PTSD Medical Marijuana

07-18-2015

Despite pleas from dozens of veterans who say smoking marijuana will prevent suicide, Colorado's Board of Health rejected a plan to allow post traumatic stress disorder to be added to the list of conditions approved to be treated with medical marijuana. 

Colorado is one of 23 states that have legalized marijuana for medical ailments, such as cancer, seizures, and chronic pain. Nine of those states allow PTSD as one of those ailments.

But the Colorado Board of Health ruled Wednesday night there is not enough scientific evidence to prescribe medical marijuana for the treatment of PTSD in their state, despite mountains of anecdotal evidence.

Their verdict was met with boos, hisses, and angry outbursts from a standing-room-only crowd, comprised mostly of veterans and their families.

"Blood is on your hands," shouted one audience member.

The board listened to testimony from a dozen veterans suffering from PTSD who said marijuana saved their lives. They said the commonly prescribed medications to treat PTSD, such as antidepressants, carried with them dangerous side-effects, including an increased risk of suicide.

But they said marijuana relieved their PTSD symptoms such as anxiety, flashbacks, and depression, without any life-threateneing side-effects.

Suicide among veterans is a staggering 50 percent higher than than non-military citizens. A full one-fifth of veterans serving in the last 15 years have been diagnosed with PTSD.

"It is our brothers and sisters who are committing suicide every day. We know cannabis can help. We're not going to go away," said John Evans, director of Veterans 4 Freedoms.

"They just told every patient here, 'We don't care about you,'" said patient advocate Teri Robnett after the vote.

However, board members stood their ground.

"We can't have physicians counseling people in favor of it because we don't have data to show it's correct," said Jill Hunsaker-Ryan, one of the board members who voted no.

Despite the vote against making PTSD an allowable condition for treatment with medical marijuana in Colorado, veterans there can still smoke it legally. Colorado is one of four states that allows adults over the age of 21 to buy recreational marijuana, without the recommendation from a doctor.

But it is taxed at a whopping 19 percent. Marijuana that is purchased for medical purposes is taxed at a mere 2.9 percent.

Furthermore, recreational marijuana users are only allowed to possess one ounce, but medical marijuana users may possess two ounces.

Colorado's Board of Health may eventually change their minds.

The state has commissioned two research projects currently underway, studying the efficacy of marijuana to treat patients suffering from PTSD.

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