Colorado vets protest PTSD denial with free marijuana after the Colorado Board of Health voted down a proposal to add post-traumatic stress as a qualifying condition under the state’s medical marijuana law. The denial by the Colorado board is similar to the denial of PTSD as a qualifying condition for the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act (OMMA) by a similar board comprised in Oregon. One of my mentors, attorney Leland Berger, submitted two applications in Oregon that were denied by stacked health boards (I assisted the second application as a young attorney). Eventually, the Oregon Legislature added PTSD as a qualifying condition, thanks to lobbying led by longtime activist Anthony Taylor, Executive Director of the patient advocacy group Compassionate Oregon. Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) statistics show that 4,635 patients have included PTSD as a qualifying condition as of July 1, 2015.
The analysis matched military records with the National Death Index, which collects data on every U.S. death. It tracked the veterans after service until the end of the 2009, finding a total of 1,868 suicides.
That equates to an annual suicide rate of 29.5 per 100,000 veterans, or roughly 50% higher than the rate among other civilians with similar demographic characteristics.
The issue of veteran suicide has become a political cause for activists and legislators. One statistic has become a rallying cry: 22 veterans take their own lives each day.
The study found that the suicide rate was slightly higher among vets who never served in Afghanistan and Iraq, showing that post-traumatic stress and other issues that can lead to suicide go beyond the the horrors of war. Veterans, and concerned citizens of all stripes are understandably upset by the Colorado decision; while research on the issue is scarce, something needs to be done to try and alleviate the consequences of PTSD as there are now more than 41,000 deaths a year from suicide in the U.S. CBS Denver covered the free marijuana protest:
Hundreds of Colorado veterans waited in a long line in Denver on Saturday for free cannabis products.
The free handouts were set up as a sign of protest to a decision by the state’s health board not to allow post-traumatic-stress disorder as a treatable condition for medical marijuana.
The cannabis giveaway was set up by Grow4Vets founder Roger Martin and Todd Mitchem, CEO of a company called High There! — a sort of social networking tool for pot users.
Hopefully, Colorado advocates can lobby for a similar as the suicide rate of American military veterans is a tragic epidemic and a national disgrace. Additionally, victims of severe trauma across all demographics may be able to benefit from cannabis. Considering the tragic ordeals that many people suffer thru and the lack of effective treatments available, victims of post-traumatic stress should be able to utilize cannabis if recommended by a medical professional. Even in states like Oregon and Colorado where marijuana is legal for adults, medical acceptance of one’s condition can be very important for a number of reasons as patients receive tax breaks, designated growers can cultivate for patients and folks suffering from post-traumatic stress should feel safe when speaking to healthcare professionals about the treatments they are seeking. While the denial of PTSD by the Colorado Board of Health is disappointing for so many, please know that the fight isn’t over and the truth and compassion can still win in the end.