PTSD sufferers should have medical pot access, says NJ lawmaker
Under New Jersey's medical marijuana program, considered by many to be the strictest in the nation, those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder are not eligible to receive cannabis. Some Garden State lawmakers are seeking to change the law, and there is also a push in Washington to allow PTSD sufferers to gain access to medical marijuana.
"It's estimated that about 30 percent of the veterans who return home from Iraq or Afghanistan suffer from PTSD, and they should be able to legally obtain medical marijuana," said Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Trenton).
Legislation co-sponsored by Gusciora and Assembly colleagues Tim Eustace (D-Paramus), Vincent Mazzeo (D-Northfield) and Linda Stender (D-Scotch Plains) would add PTSD to the list of conditions that would qualify a patient to receive medical marijuana under the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act. The measure passed the full Assembly in March by a margin of 53 to 13. There is an identical bill in the state Senate which is scheduled to be considered in committee Monday.
"All of the same regulations would apply to those with PTSD, and if a doctor finds that they have PTSD, they would be eligible for medical marijuana," Gusciora said.
PTSD symptoms listed in the bill's statement include:
- Severe anxiety
- Uncontrollable thoughts about the traumatic event
- Emotional distress
- Physical symptoms
- Feelings of numbness or detachment
- Engaging in dangerous or self-destructive behavior
- Experiencing suicidal thoughts
"For many veterans, the effects of PTSD can be profound and are not always healed by time," said Stender in a press release. "Like many other illnesses and conditions that are not easily treatable with traditional medication, medical marijuana holds the promise of providing significant relief for those suffering from PTSD."
Currently, New Jersey only allows medical marijuana to be given to those with one or more of six ailments: AIDS, cancer, Crohn's disease, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis and neuroskeletal disorders.
Gov. Chris Christie has said he is opposed to expanding New Jersey's medical marijuana program, but Gusciora suggested Christie's possible presidential run could change his mind about medical marijuana.
"As the governor goes around the country, I hope that he talks to veterans' groups that are advocating for the treatment of PTSD with medical marijuana, and I think that in time even the governor could change his mind," Gusciora said.
Legislation in the U.S. Senate co-sponsored by Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Rand Paul (R-KY) would change the federal law to allow PTSD sufferers to get medical marijuana, but Gusciora isn't holding his breath waiting for that to happen.
"It's a much more difficult haul in the federal government because they don't allow medical marijuana for any reason under federal law," Gusciora said.