September 05, 2016
Nearly 18,000 people have signed a petition calling on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to sign legislation that would include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a qualifying condition for the state's medical marijuana program.
The change.org petition, which seeks 25,000 signatures, comes more than a month after the New Jersey legislature overwhelmingly voted to approve Assembly Bill 457 on August 1. Supporters are urging Christie to take swift action.
Now, the measure sits on the desk of Governor Chris Christie, who has the option of signing it into law, allowing it to become law without his signature, or vetoing it. We are calling [on] Governor Christie to quickly sign it into law, allowing those suffering from the ailment to use a medicine that research has continually shown is beneficial.
The petition cites a 2014 study published in the journal Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, which details how human clinical trials found "the cannabinoid system may serve as a promising target for innovative intervention strategies (e.g. pharmacological enhancement of exposure-based therapy) in PTSD and other fear learning-related disorders.”
Another study published in the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy examined the use and effects of cannabinoids in military veterans diagnosed with PTSD, finding that there is "a pharmacologic rationale for the use of cannabinoids to manage the three core PTSD symptom clusters: reexperiencing, avoidance and numbing, and hyperarousal."
The law currently covers 12 qualifying conditions — including terminal cancer, Lou Gherig's disease and multiple sclerosis — but the state Department of Health recently announced it would accept petitions to add qualifying conditions.
"For many veterans, the effects of PTSD are not always healed by time and can be lasting and profound,” said Eustace. “When it comes to PTSD, medical marijuana holds the promise of providing significant relief as it does for many other illnesses and conditions that are not easily treatable with traditional medication.”
As of September 2016, 12 states list PTSD as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana. Three of them — Ohio, Illinois and Rhode Island — approved the inclusion PTSD within the last six months. The recent tide in favor of a new status for the condition led the Cannabist to call PTSD the most divisive medical pot issue of 2016.
Still, in June, 87 percent of registered voters in a national Quinnipiac University poll said they believe Veterans Administration doctors should be able to prescribe marijuana pills to veterans with PTSD. This position was validated in May by both chambers of Congress at the federal level, which voted to allow VA doctors to discuss medical marijuana with patients as a viable treatment option.
Broader federal support for research efforts include a three-year, DEA-approved study into a placebo-controlled trial that will test the effects of raw marijuana in the treatment of PTSD.
To date, Christie has been less than fully forthcoming about his intentions regarding the bill on his desk. In April, he derided certain calls for the expansion of state medical marijuana programs, specifically a proposal that would open treatment to women suffering from severe menstrual cramps.
“The reason why it hasn’t gotten the response it’s gotten in other states is because ours is a truly medical-based program for only people who have true illnesses that require medicinal marijuana,” Christie said. “Other states have programs that are faux medical-marijuana programs that allow for recreational use.”
According to the National Institutes of Health, PTSD affects about 7.7 million American adults in a given year. The disorder can develop at any age, including childhood, and symptoms 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 the patient's trauma.