A long battle has raged on in New Jersey to have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) added to the list of conditions that qualify for medical marijuana treatment. As of Wednesday, the battle has been won as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie shocked marijuana reform advocates by approving a medical cannabis expansion bill that approves medical marijuana for PTSD treatment. Up until this point the Governor has considered Assembly Bill 457 and other efforts to expand the program to be an attempt to legalize the plant. He now recognizes its potential medicinal benefits for veterans suffering from PTSD who have not been able to get relief through conventional methods.
The Logic Behind Gov. Christie’s Decision
Christie was moved to change the law in order to specifically help veterans who are suffering from the disorder after returning from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He wants the expansion to “provide struggling veterans and others with the ability to use medical marijuana to treat PTSD, but only after it has been determined by a physician or psychiatrist that conventional medical therapy is ineffective.” He is very clear that doctors should assess that conventional medicine isn’t working on the patient before recommending the herb. He stated that he believes that the potential that someone will abuse the herb is not a good enough reason to deny treatment for patients who are truly in need.
The Department of Veteran Affairs’ Stance on Marijuana for PTSD
New Jersey is the 18th state to allow medical marijuana for PSTD treatment. The state also qualifies multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, cancer, seizures, glaucoma and other disorders to qualify a patient for medical marijuana treatment. Twenty-five states have now legalized marijuana and 7 of those states are still debating on whether or not medical marijuana for PTSD treatment should be allowed. As long as the plant remains illegal on a federal level it is a difficult situation, because the Department of Veterans Affairs will not approve the plant as a valid treatment for veterans unless government approved studies show its value. Due to its illegal status, no federally approved studies have been completed as yet.
The DEA’s Catch 22
In early August, the DEA announced that it will not change the classification of marijuana from a Schedule I drug. Schedule I drugs are considered to be the most dangerous drugs, having no medicinal value. The reasoning behind their decision was that there still hasn’t been any government approved studies done on whether the plant has medicinal purposes because those studies have been outlawed, due to their illegal nature. The DEA did decide to override this catch 22 situation by allowing for federally approved medical studies to begin to take place. Unfortunately the rules and regulations they have attached to the process for getting approval has put many scientists off from taking up the challenge. There are however still scientists who are passionate about the cause and plan to move forward with establishing government approved evidence of the medicinal value of marijuana.
For every state that approves the disorder, veterans get closer to getting the much needed support for treating the debilitating condition. It seems inevitable that, once approved studies are done, marijuana will soon be available to suffering veterans and others with the disorder across the country.