Medical Marijuana Now Available to PTSD Patients in Rhode Island

Following the signing of a bill that amends the state’s medical marijuana legislation, Rhode Island patients suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder can legally get access to cannabis for treatment.

Rhode Island expanded its list of approved medical marijuana conditions to include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the Providence Journal reports. Gov. Gina Raimondo signed the legislation, which amends the state’s legislation to add PTSD to the list of “debilitating medical conditions” eligible for medical marijuana, into law in July. The new law takes effect immediately.

Sen. Stephen Archambault (D-Smithfield) and Rep. Scott Slater (D-Providence) introduced the bill after having lobbied hard for the inclusion of PTSD over the last two years.

“Governors office just informed me that the Gov signed my bill allowing PTSD as a qualifying condition for Medical Marijuana. Thank you to all who testified, advocated, and fought to pass this legislation. Glad to help so many patients who suffer with PTSD!” Rep. Slater wrote on his Facebook page in response to the law being signed.

PTSD is a condition that develops after a person has experienced a trauma. It can cause flashbacks, nightmares, emotional distress, and severe anxiety. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, about 7-8 percent of the population will have PTSD at some point and about 8 million adults have PTSD during a given year.

PTSD is more prevalent in veterans that have seen combat and been exposed to life-threatening or horrific experiences. The VA reports that between 11-20 percent of veterans who served in Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Enduring Freedom (OEF) has PTSD. About 12 percent of Gulf War veterans and about 15 percent of Vietnam veterans have been diagnosed with the condition.

With the new law, Rhode Island joins 13 other states that have approved medical marijuana specifically for the treatment of PTSD. The bill also accelerates the issuance of an approved application for hospice care patients. The Department of Health is required to issue an identification card within 72 hours of receiving the application.

“Medical marijuana is already the law of Rhode Island. We’ve already established that it works in treating certain conditions,” Sen. Archambault said in a press release. “It is unconscionable that we would not add PTSD to the list of medical conditions that would benefit from it. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a very real psychological problem, particularly among our veteran community, and it’s our responsibility to provide them with treatment options that can alleviate their suffering.”

While research is somewhat limited, the studies that have been done suggest that cannabis helps PTSD patients manage symptoms. The cannabinoids found in cannabis have shown to block the continuous retrieval of the traumatic event. Just recently the Drug Enforcement Agency approved a placebo-controlled clinical trial to examine cannabis’ effects on Veterans with PTSD. There are currently no approved pharmaceutical treatments for PTSD.

“Study after study continues to find useful medical applications for marijuana, including helping those with crippling ailments such as PTSD and those that are suffering incredible pain at the end of their lives,” said Rep. Slater. “Both those with PTSD and those in hospice care deserve our compassion toward their suffering and if marijuana helps ease their pain, it is our responsibility to allow legal access to marijuana for these patients in the hopes that their lives become as comfortable as possible.”

Rhode Island legalized medical marijuana in 2006 after the state’s House and Senate overturned then governor Don Carcieri’s veto. Approved patients registered with the state can legally possess up to 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana and 12 marijuana plants for the treatment of cancerglaucomaAIDS and HIVhepatitis Ccachexiapain, severe nauseaseizure disorders and epilepsymuscle spasmsmultiple sclerosisCrohn’s diseaseAlzheimer’s disease, and now PTSD. Patients must be 18 years of age or older to qualify.

To learn more about medical marijuana in Rhode Island or in your own state, visit our education page.