Medical marijuana rejected by state board as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder

DENVER - Colorado's Board of Health has rejected a proposal to allow medical marijuana as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.  

The decision came after hours of testimony, primarily from military veterans and sex assault survivors. Several spoke about past efforts to take their own lives.

"(My son) has been through so much," said Army veteran and medical marijuana user Matthew Kahl. "He's held my limp hand after I tried to find a away out of this problem, and I can't apologize to him enough for that. But I can fight for this alternative for every other kid just like him who wants his daddy or mommy back."

While fewer in number, arguments from opponents had more sway with board members. 

"The American Psychiatric Society is unequivocally opposed to adding post-traumatic stress disorder as a qualifying condition (for medical marijuana)," said Dr. Doris Gundersen. "Because the science we have as experts, as psychiatrists, overwhelmingly demonstrates more harm than good."

The primary argument from board members who voted against the petition was there has not been enough scientific research on marijuana and PTSD.

This is the third time someone has petitioned the state to add PTSD to Colorado's medical marijuana program. In the past, the chief medical officer has rejected the petition.

This was the first time the acting chief medical officer has recommended the board of health vote on the issue.

"I'm certainly disappointed by the decision, but I respect how and why the decision was made," said Chief Medical Officer Dr. Larry Wolk. "It comes down to, on one side of the issue, whether the evidence [that marijuana successfully treats PTSD] is there technically speaking. And I don’t think the evidence is there, and that’s the way the board voted."

Wolk went on to say that the personal stories of PTSD sufferers can't be ignored.

"I think there are a lot of practical reasons why it should have been considered," Wolk said. "Not the least of which is, we want to create the physician/patient relationship that the medical marijuana program allows for, rather than expecting these patients will self-medicate using legalized products."

Nine other states consider PTSD a qualifying condition for medical pot, but Colorado has not added a condition  to Colorado's registry since voters approved medical marijuana 15 years ago.

Colorado has about 113,000 people on its medical marijuana registry. All have a doctor's recommendation to use the drug to treat one of eight debilitating conditions, ranging from cancer and AIDS to severe pain.

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