Colorado rejects pot for post-traumatic stress

DENVER — Colorado rejected marijuana as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder Monday, the third time efforts have failed to add the condition to the list of ailments for which doctors can recommend pot.

Colorado allows any adult over 21 to buy marijuana, but supporters of a bill to add PTSD to the list of eight qualifying conditions to join the state’s medical marijuana registry argued that PTSD merits inclusion.

The House State, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee rejected the bill 6-5 Monday evening after lengthy testimony from doctors and veterans. The state Health Department has twice rejected petitions to add PTSD to the list of qualifying conditions.

“This is, to me, not an issue about veterans,” said Dr. Larry Wolk, Colorado’s chief medical officer and head of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. But he added that inadequate research exists to show marijuana is an effective treatment for PTSD.

Several veterans disagreed, some wiping away tears as they told of struggling with pharmaceuticals to treat PTSD.

“Cannabis made it to where I don’t have to take any of these prescription drugs,” Iraq War veteran Sean Azzariti testified. “It saved by life.”

But two doctors testified that cannabis can make PTSD symptoms worse, or make users more prone to violence or depression.

Dr. Doris Gundersen of the Colorado Psychiatric Society argued that marijuana contains several ingredients, and that giving it to a person with PTSD is “like crushing 15 kinds of antidepressants and dispensing them.”

The bill’s sponsor, Democratic Rep. Jonathan Singer, of Longmont, argued in vain that doctors would still be better suited than recreational dispensary workers to consider a kind of marijuana to relieve anxiety or other symptoms of PTSD.

“We should not have people consulting cashiers when they should be consulting doctors about their post-traumatic stress conditions,” Singer said.

Advocates say including PTSD as a qualifying condition is also necessary because medical marijuana is taxed at much lower rates that recreational pot.

Wolk said his agency would again review research on marijuana as a PTSD treatment, but lawmakers never considered the idea.


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