Marijuana plants are shown at Colorado retailer 3D Cannabis Center in May 2014. (Brennan Linsley, Associated Press file)

Colorado bill adding PTSD to medical marijuana list heads to gov’s desk

A bill to add PTSD to the list of Colorado’s medical marijuana qualifying conditions is headed to the governor’s desk.

The Colorado Senate on Tuesday voted 32-2 to re-pass Senate Bill 17, which was amended in the House.

What’s happened to this point:

The state House on Friday passed SB 17 by a vote of 39-25, with one member absent. The vote came a day after the bill was amended in second reading to add a stipulation that one of the two recommending physicians required for minor patients be a pediatrician, board-certified family physician or board-certified child and adolescent psychiatrist who is part of the family’s medical care plan.

In February, the bill cleared the Senate by a vote of 34-1.

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 petition requests to put PTSD on that list, most recently in 2015. Previous legislative maneuvers had stalled.

A legal challenge to the Colorado Board of Health’s 2015 rulingis currently before the Colorado Court of Appeals.

Proponents argue that recreational marijuana is not cost-effective for PTSD patients and there is 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 military benefits if they use recreational marijuana. Having PTSD as a qualifying 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 such 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. A Colorado-funded, placebo-controlled clinical trial of veterans suffering PTSD is getting underway in Arizona. However, a number of researchers have expressed concern that the federally approved study drug does not accurately reflect what’s available on the market.