Whether doctors can prescribe medical marijuana for PTSD has been highly contested in recent years, but in Colorado, new legislation to allow this is moving forward. (Thinkstock/Getty Images)

Colorado bill allowing medical marijuana for PTSD sails through Senate

Legislation to add PTSD as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana in Colorado is quickly progressing.

Senate Bill 17, which would allow doctors to recommend medical marijuana for post-traumatic stress disorder and acute stress disorders, easily cleared the Senate on a 34-1 vote Friday morning. Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, cast the lone dissenting vote.

The measure, co-sponsored by Sen. Irene Aguilar, D-Denver, and Rep. Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont, now moves to the House.

What has happened to this point:

On Monday, the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee unanimously advanced the bill in a 5-0 vote.

At the committee hearing, by a show of hands, the majority of the standing-room-only crowd of about 100 people were in support of SB 17. Most of the public testimony came from supporters, who included veterans as well as survivors of abuse and trauma.

The Republican-led committee also heard from physicians representing Colorado’s major medical organizations, including the Colorado Medical Society and the Colorado Psychiatric Society.

The question of whether medical marijuana could be used to help treat the symptoms of PTSD has been a highly contested debate in recent years.

The Colorado Board of Health, which has not added any new qualifying conditions to the state’s medical marijuana law since it was implemented in 2001, has denied requests to put PTSD on that list.
Legislative maneuvers also have stalled.

A legal challenge to the Colorado Board of Health’s 2015 ruling denying PTSD as a qualifying condition is currently before the Colorado Court of Appeals.

Proponents argue that recreational marijuana is not cost-effective for PTSD patients and limited availability of the low-THC/CBD-heavy products claimed effective for symptoms such as anxiety, nightmares and sleep disorders. They also note that veterans could be at risk for losing their benefits if they use recreational marijuana. Having PTSD as a qualified condition opens an honest dialogue between doctors and patients, they add.

Members of the medical community frequently caution that more qualified research is needed to determine the effectiveness and any health risks associated with using medical cannabis to treat a complex psychological condition. Psychologists have argued that any treatment would likely need to be used in conjunction with other forms of therapy — be it talk therapy or practices such as yoga or meditation — so as to not simply mask an underlying condition.

Some research is happening. However, a number of researchers have expressed concern that the federally approved study drug does not accurately reflect what’s available on the market.