After long debate over medical pot for PTSD, Colorado poised to add the condition



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DENVER — Colorado may add post-traumatic stress disorder as a condition to be treated with medical marijuana — a dramatic turnaround after years of rejecting appeals to make PTSD the first ailment added to the state's medical-pot program since it was approved by voters in 2000.

The addition of PTSD would be the first mental-health disorder for which Colorado doctors could recommend pot.

Colorado's chief medical officer, Dr. Larry Wolk, will forward the addition to the full Board of Health for approval this fall.

The addition would be a dramatic turnaround for an agency that has rejected PTSD at least three times for inclusion on the marijuana registry. Wolk, who as recently as last year testified against making PTSD an ailment eligible for pot, said his mind was changed by overwhelming evidence that people with PTSD are already on the medical registry, just listing "severe pain" as their ailment.

"We don't want people to suffer as a result as a result of not being able to access (the registry) honestly," Wolk said.

The change comes after Colorado assembled a panel of doctors and medical marijuana advocates to review studies about the drug's medical potential. The new Medical Marijuana Scientific Advisory Council made the recommendation Friday, saying that PTSD can be added for a four-year trial.

"It's momentous," said Brian Vicente, a longtime supporter of marijuana legalization who led efforts for years to add PTSD to Colorado's medical marijuana registry. "It's contributing to the legitimization of marijuana."

If the Board of Health approves the change, Colorado would become the 10th state to consider PTSD a condition eligible for pot.

Colorado last year awarded about $3.4 million to two medical studies of using the drug for treatment of PTSD. Those studies are just getting underway.

Colorado currently has about 114,000 people on the medical marijuana registry. They all have a doctor's recommendation for using the drug to treat one of eight debilitating conditions, ranging from cancer and AIDS to severe pain and nausea.

Wolk predicted that adding PTSD to the list of qualifying ailments won't increase the numbers of people eligible for medical pot. He did predict a shift in listings on the marijuana registry from "severe pain" to PTSD.

"It really better represents how and why patients are using medical marijuana," he said. "Colorado is known for the state where 96 percent of the people get their medical marijuana for pain, and we don't think that's a true reflection of the population."

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which oversees the registry, will request a hearing about the PTSD addition in June, with a public hearing on the question expected in September.


Kristen Wyatt can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/APkristenwyatt

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