Today we lose 22 veterans a day to suicide. This is a tragic loss and is, in many instances, avoidable. Veteran’s care for PTSD patients can be a tangled web of medications that initially provide temporary relief for most but many find the regimen of SSRI’s and pain medication to be insufficient in the long for treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress.
Cannabis on the other hand has proved vital in treating symptoms of sleeplessness and hyper-vigilance commonly associated with Post-Traumatic Stress. It turns down the dream machine allowing Veterans to begin getting recuperative sleep and it also takes the edge off of hyper-vigilance. It must be added that it is not ideal for all Veterans as it can increase anxiety in some patients.
Many Veterans receive their health care from the Department of Veterans Affairs which has been on the forefront for federal agencies regarding policy changes that allow the concurrent use of cannabis while receiving care from a Department of Veterans Affairs facility.
“If a Veteran obtains and uses medical marijuana in a manner that is consistent with state law, testing positive for marijuana would not preclude the Veteran from receiving opioids for pain management in a Department of Veterans Affairs facility.” – Robert A. Petzel, MD, Dept. of Veterans Affairs, Undersecretary of Health, July 6, 2010.
As the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program has grown over the years attempts were made to add PTSD to the list of conditions for which the use of medical marijuana could be approved. Ed Glick, RN and Leland Berger, atty at law petitioned the Program seeking this addition but were denied.
In 2013, Compassionate Oregon asked Oregon Senate Veterans Committee Chair Senator Brian Boquist, R DIst. 12, to introduce legislation to add PTSD. Senate Bill 281 adding PTSD as a qualifying condition was introduced and referred to the Senate Health Care Committee Testimony before the Senate Health Care Committee was compelling and included testimony from Dr. Lester Grinspoon, MD., Susan Sisely, MD., and Bryan Krumm, RN. The bill received a do-pass recommendation. The Senate Judiciary also passed it out of committee with a do-pass recommendation. It passed the Senate and was heard in the House HealthCare Committee where it also received a do-pass recommendation and was sent to the floor of the House where it passed by a two-thirds vote in favor. Then governor Kitzhaber signed it into law.
To date we have nearly 7,000 OMMP patients reporting PTSD as their qualifying condition making up nearly 7% of all patients. While not all these patients reporting PTSD, not all are veterans and indeed we have 20 patients listing PTSD that are minors.
The VA continues to trend in a positive direction on the use of cannabis as part of a Veterans treatment plan and if any Veteran is having trouble with their VA physician, please be sure to check in with your VA Patient Advocate to make sure your doctor understands your usage of cannabis.
If you need a copy of the letter cited in this article please visit our website, CompassionateOregon.com and go to the Veterans page. If you have any questions regarding your use of cannabis in the VA health care system please feel free to contact us via the website and we will do our best to help you. Or visit Veterans for Access to Medical Cannabis Access website veteransformedicalmarijuana.org.
Finally, Oregon Veterans with PTSD now qualify for a discounted medical marijuana card for the reduced fee of $25. This is also available for Veterans with 100% service related disability.
Anthony Taylor, is a Vietnam Era Veteran and long-time activist for cannabis reform. He is the co-founder of Compassionate Oregon a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the rights of medical marijuana patients, their families and the communities that serve them. He is a registered lobbyist and continues to fight for the cannabis industry.