With a highly popular online petition, New Jersey residents are making known their demand that the New Jersey governor sign a bill to allow PTSD patients legal access to medical marijuana.
Over 18,000 have signed a petition pleading with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to sign a bill that would expand the state’s medical marijuana program to include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a qualifying condition. Assembly Bill 457 passed New Jersey’s full legislature on August 1, but since then has remained stagnant on Gov. Christie’s desk.
Christie, a long-time opponent to medical and adult use cannabis, has the option of signing the bill into law, vetoing it, or allowing it to become law without his signature. The bill passed the Senate with a vote of 29 to 9 and the Assembly with a vote of 56 to 13.
“We are calling Governor Christie to quickly sign [Assembly Bill 457] into law, allowing those suffering from the ailment to use a medicine that research has continually shown is beneficial,” the petition from TheJointBlog.com reads.
PTSD is a mental condition that develops following the experience of a traumatic event. Most prevalent among military veterans that have experienced battle, PTSD can cause flashbacks, severe anxiety, nightmares and unmanageable thoughts about the traumatic experience. The condition can lead to panic disorder, depression, substance abuse and feeling suicidal.
“There are 22 veterans a day committing suicide,” said New Jersey veteran Leo Bridgewater. “That’s unacceptable. [Marijuana] can help.”
Research indicates that cannabis helps PTSD patients manage their symptoms. Through their interaction with the body’s endocannabinoid system, the cannabinoids found in cannabis are able to improve sleep and block the continuous retrieval of the traumatic event, thereby reducing anxiety.
The authors of the petition point to two recent studies showing cannabis’ therapeutic efficacy for PTSD. One, a government-funded human trial from 2014, concluded, “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.” The other, a 2015 study published in the National Institute of Health, found that cannabinoids were effective at improving the three core PTSD symptoms — reexperiencing, avoidance and numbing, and hyperarousal.
A readers poll published on the Asbury Park Press website found that 85 percent of readers were in support of vets being legally allowed to use medical marijuana to treat PTSD. Other New Jersey veterans have voiced a demand that Gov. Christie signs the bill.
AB 457 wouldn’t limit medical marijuana access to veterans. Any New Jersey resident diagnosed with intractable PTSD and a recommendation from a licensed physician would be able to legally access marijuana through the state’s program. To be approved, PTSD patients must show their disorder is “resistant to conventional medical therapy, which generally combines psychotherapy with antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications.”
Of the 25 U.S. states with comprehensive medical marijuana legislation, 14 have included PTSD as a qualifying condition for medicinal cannabis. Rhode Island and Illinois both added PTSD as an approved condition this year. Earlier this year, the Drug Enforcement Administration for the first time approved the use of marijuana for placebo-controlled, $2.2 million clinical trial that will examine marijuana’s effects on veterans with PTSD.
New Jersey legalized medical marijuana in 2010, shortly before Gov. Christie took office. The state didn’t open its first dispensary, however, until 2013. Visit our New Jersey medical marijuana page to learn more about the state’s program and its qualifying conditions.