DENVER (AP) — The first state to legalize marijuana is just now taking steps to consider the drug medicine for people suffering from post-traumatic stress.
Colorado has authorized medical marijuana for nearly two decades, and the state approved recreational pot use in 2012. But doctors here still cannot recommend marijuana's use to treat post-traumatic stress, forcing sufferers to pay higher taxes for recreational pot.
Many Colorado PTSD patients interested in pot say they lie to doctors about having chronic pain, allowing them to qualify for medical pot cards.
"Medical obviously comes at a lesser price, and needing it medicinally, we need a lot more than a regular person would," said Ashley Weber, 32, a Longmont native who uses marijuana to treat chronic pain and PTSD from a car accident that left her in wheelchair.
A bill headed to the state Senate would make PTSD the 10th ailment eligible for medical pot in Colorado. Passage would make Colorado the 20th state to allow doctors to recommend pot for PTSD.
Colorado's Medical Board has rejected post-traumatic stress as an ailment eligible for pot art least four times. Citing a lack of medical research showing pot's effectiveness treating PTSD, the state's major medical societies also oppose pot for PTSD.
"There are well-known, proven treatments for PTSD," said Dr. Adam Burstein, testifying against the bill on behalf of the Colorado Medical Society and the Colorado Psychiatric Association.
But other physicians testified that marijuana treatments for PTSD are already common and that the change wouldn't require pot treatment, just allow doctors to consider it.
"There is an institutional bias against marijuana in the medical profession," said Dr. Irene Aguilar, who is also a state senator from Denver and sponsor of the bill, which awaits a Senate vote in the next few weeks before heading to the House.
Allowing PTSD pot treatments, Aguilar said, would "allow physicians to put marijuana in their toolbox if they so choose."
Colorado has about 100,000 people registered for medical marijuana, a number that has stayed steady since the passage of recreational pot in 2012.
Medical pot users can possess twice as much pot as recreational users and their taxes are significantly lower. Also, some shops provide specialty strains to medical patients that are unavailable to the general public.
Colorado's Health Department has also set aside some $3.3 million since 2015 for studying marijuana to treat post-traumatic stress, including an observational study of 76 military veterans. The studies have not yet been completed.