Attempts over the years to add PTSD as a qualifying disorder for medical cannabis in Colorado have been unsuccessful. The Colorado Board of Health refused several petitions for the inclusion, citing the need for more scientific research. Bills’ passes through the General Assembly have been brief, and individuals suffering from PTSD’s legal bids were overruled.

2017 brings new attempts, both legislatively and legally, to authorize PTSD as a qualifying condition. “I’ve met a number of veterans who really feel like it improved their quality of life,” said Sen. Irene Aguilar, a Denver Democrat and physician who co-sponsored a bill to have PTSD and acute stress disorders be considered “debilitating medical conditions” under the state’s medical cannabis law. Aguilar stated that in a time when worry is raised about veterans’ increased risk of suicide, there should be consideration for all potential options to help prevent that.

Senate Bill 17, co-sponsored by Rep. Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont, is anticipated to go before the Senate’s State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee. The initial committee hearing that was scheduled was postponed as lawmakers evaluate whether there is a legislative mechanism to add a qualifying condition or if that is limited to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Aguilar stated. Some of the initial resistance to the bill has come from members of the medical community. Dr. Jennifer Hagman, representing the Colorado Psychiatric Society stated, “Our main concern is really the risk of harm to the individual.”

Hagman stated, “I would hope that we continue to wait until there’s adequate scientific support for using marijuana for this condition. I think it’s premature and the data isn’t there.” The limited individuals people are working with around veterans with PTSD and cannabis, Hagman said, has shown negative correlations. She explained a longitudinal study of veterans over a period of 30 years that showed some who started using cannabis following therapy had increased incidences of violent behavior.

Hagman noted that more studies are still happening and that the state of Colorado has put money toward research on cannabis’ effects on those with PTSD. The research received federal approval in 2016, a year and a half after Colorado awarded the grant. “I think the best thing that could happen is for the federal government to remove marijuana from Schedule I so that research is much easier to do,” Hagman stated. Happening in the background of this latest play from legislators is an ongoing appeals case in state court that challenges the board of health’s 2015 decision on PTSD. And nationally, an increasingly growing slate of medical cannabis states have looked positively on PTSD as a qualifying disorder.

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