Oregon Medical Marijuana Backers Trying Again to Add PTSD to List of Qualifying Conditions

Officially, Rick Fabian uses medical marijuana to relieve severe pain from a litany of health problems. But more than pain, the 60-year-old Vietnam vet relies on the drug to blunt the debilitating symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

“I was a crabby vegetable, my wife says,” said Fabian, who lives in Corbett. “I am still a little bit high maintenance, but I do better. … I am not saying I am cured, but I am kinder and gentler to people. I am happier.”

Oregon medical marijuana advocates are laying the groundwork to add PTSD to the list of conditions that qualify patients to use medical marijuana. They say many with the disorder are already in the state program because they have other medical conditions that allow them to legally use the drug. But as more veterans return home and struggle to resume their lives, advocates say it’s time to recognize PTSD as a stand-alone condition.

As with virtually all marijuana-related matters in the United States, the debate over expanding Oregon’s program to include PTSD is politically charged. The drug’s outlaw status under federal law makes it a lightning rod for controversy. Two previous attempts to add PTSD to Oregon’s program have failed, and Colorado and Arizona officials recently rejected efforts to add the condition to their medical marijuana programs.

Law enforcement in Oregon generally opposes the expansion of the program. Some drug treatment providers caution against treating PTSD sufferers with what they view as an addictive drug.

Oregon is home to an estimated 300,000 veterans, including more than 20,000 from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, according to the Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs. A 2008 Rand Corporation study found nearly 20 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan vets reported PTSD symptoms.

Jason Hansman, senior program manager for the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said medical marijuana’s potential to help sick veterans deserves serious examination.

“We treat it like any other new treatment technique: We want to see it studied. We want to see increased research to see if it’s a viable solution,” said Hansman, whose group represents 145,000 veterans.

– Read the entire article at Oregon Live.