Arizona Judge Approves Medical Marijuana as Treatment for PTSD

Arizona is on the road to becoming the twelfth State to provide PTSD patients access to medical marijuana.

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After years of hard-fought efforts a coalition of patients, medical professionals, and advocates succeeded in demonstrating the medical safety and efficacy of marijuana for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to the Administrative Law Judge who heard the case. The Arizona Dept. of Health has denied all petitions submitted previously.

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An Arizona judge issued a decision Friday claiming that State Health Director Will Humble acted illegally by denying PTSD patients access to medical marijuana, reports the Arizona Daily Sun. According to Judge Thomas Shedden, Humble utilized the dearth of scientific studies regarding PTSD and marijuana usage as grounds for denying medical marijuana to patients, many of whom are veterans. Shedden claims that Humble should have listened to testimony from medical professionals who claimed medical marijuana had helped their patients.

Arizona passed a ballot initiative making medical marijuana legal in 2010, but PTSD was not included in the qualifying conditions. Proponents of adding PTSD tried to do so in 2012, and then again in 2013. Following the 2012 proposal, Humble contracted the University of Arizona to study the effects of marijuana in conjunction with PTSD, which produced results of “varying quality.” Humble responded to Judge Shedden’s decision saying,

“There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence. At the hearings that we had, one family after the next came up and personally testified that they believed that marijuana provided relief for their PTSD. But throughout my entire career I’ve really focused on using scientific evidence really as the cornerstone of good, effective decision making when it comes to public policy,” he said. “And that evidence is not there.”

“It is heartening to see Judge Shedden’s decision takes into account both research and patient experience. He acknowledges the credibility of evidence from medical professionals who treat patients with PTSD and people who suffer from PTSD.” Drug Policy Alliance Staff Attorney Tamar Todd said in a reaction.

Unfortunately, the federal government has a history of making it very difficult to study marijuana, unless the purpose of the study is to determine negative effects. In 2011, Dr. Sue Sisley at the University of Arizona was denied permission to research the effects of marijuana on PTSD in veterans. A new study is awaiting final approval from the DEA.