September 14, 2016
After more than a month of speculation and advocacy, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Wednesday signed an Assembly bill that will officially add post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to the state's list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana.
"PTSD is a debilitating medical condition affecting the ability of the men and women who have served our country to lead normal lives," Christie said in a statement announcing his decision.
Under the new law, a physician or psychiatrist will first have to determine that conventional medical treatments, including psychotherapy and antidepressant medications, are ineffective before authorizing PTSD patients to obtain medical marijuana.
"Requiring conventional medical therapy to be ineffective in treating PTSD before medical marijuana can be prescribed is an appropriate threshold safeguard to deter misuse in the Medical Marijuana Program," Christie said. "However, in order to further deter abuse, I am directing the Commissioner of the Department of Health to promulgate additional regulations that provide clear objective criteria regarding the use of medical marijuana for PTSD."
Christie added the "mere potential" for abuse should not deter the state of New Jersey from taking action to ease the struggles of veterans and other legitimately suffering from the condition.
"Following the tragic events on September 11, 2001, the United States has vigorously fought terrorism beginning with Operations Enduring Freedom (“OEF”) and Iraqi Freedom (“OIF”)," Christie said. "As a result of over a decade of active combat, the United States military has seen the largest number of PTSD cases in several generations."
Up to 20 out every 100 veterans who served in these military campaigns are suffering from PTSD, according to the National Center for PTSD, which is housed within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The National Institutes of Health further estimates that about 7.7 million American adults are affected by PTSD in any given year.
Symptoms of the condition, which can develop at any age, include strong and unwanted memories of a traumatic event, bad dreams, emotional numbness, intense guilt or worry, angry outbursts, feeling “on edge,” and avoiding thoughts and situations that are reminders of a patient's trauma.
Christie's signature comes after more than 18,000 people signed a petition calling on the governor to take swift action. The petition cited a pair of influential studies that found multiple benefits to the use of cannabinoids to treat PTSD and other fear learning-related disorders.
New Jersey becomes the 13th state to include PTSD as a qualifying condition for its Medical Marijuana Program, whose scope now broaden to 13 ailments in total.