Oregon Legislature Adds PTSD to Medical Marijuana Program

Medical marijuana could help veterans, and others who suffer from PTSD.

Medical marijuana could help veterans, and others who suffer from PTSD.

SALEM, OR — A bill to expand Oregon’s medical marijuana program by adding post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to the list of qualifying ailments was approved by the Oregon House on Thursday, sending the bill to Governor Kitzhaber’s desk for final approval.   The bill passed the Senate in April.

The House voted 36-21 on Thursday to approve the bill, which received a favorable recommendation by the House Health Committee earlier this month.

Use of medical marijuana is currently allowed in the state for patients with certain debilitating medical conditions such as cancer, glaucoma, Alzheimer’s disease, HIV and AIDS.  In an earlier hearing on the bill, veterans told lawmakers that marijuana helped them cope with the physical and emotional trauma of war.

The bill, Senate Bill 281, would add post-traumatic stress disorder, a type of anxiety disorder that occurs in people who have seen or experienced a traumatic event that involved the threat of injury or death, to the list.

Military veterans returning from combat often suffer symptoms of PTSD,

Republican Senator Brian Boquist introduced the bill on behalf of a constituent but said he didn’t have an opinion of the measure one way or the other. His constituent, Todd Dalotto of Philomath, said he sought the measure after state public health officials twice rejected requests to include PTSD in the medical marijuana program.

Dalotto is a member of the Advisory Committee on Medical Marijuana, a panel created by the Legislature to advise state officials.

“The lack of recognition of PTSD as a qualifying condition…has been one of our top complaints about how patients are underserved,” Dalotto said.

Michael Krawitz, director of a Virginia-based group called Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access, said marijuana can help people suffering from PTSD find balance in their lives. Military suicides reached a record 349 last year.

“It’s not like we have a silver bullet in the medicine cabinet,” Krawitz said. “They’re struggling to treat these people.”

“As a physician, I want to be able to offer the most services to my patients,” said Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, D-Beaverton, before voting in support of the bill earlier in  May.