Last week, the state Department of Health Services rejected the chance to add PTSD to the list of qualifying ailments under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act.
The decision by DHS director Will Humble to prevent people with PTSD from using marijuana legally follows numerous petitions by the public and testimony during a hearing. Humble also rejected petitions to have anxiety, migraine headaches and depression added as qualifying ailments.
But it's PTSD that has received the most attention -- possibly because many war veterans who came home with the disorder think they deserve not to be jailed for smoking a doob that might help quell their nightmares.
In any case, we've come up with five good reasons why Humble should have decided the other way, (even though doing that would have ticked off his anti-pot boss, Governor Jan Brewer, who's probably already steaming mad on the issue of medical marijuana since a judge ordered her to stop delaying the program.)
One more piece of background info before we begin: Humble made his decision after commissioning a study on the issues that was conducted by the University of Arizona's College of Public Health. The University concluded that they "could not find any research that directly addressed the key questions of the benefits and harms of marijuana use for the treatment of PTSD." Following that review of studies, the DHS' Medical Advisory Committee recommended against adding the other ailments.
Why do we think we know better than the DHS' esteemed advisory committee and U of A researchers? To begin with:
1. Common sense. PTSD causes sleeplessness, anxiety, constant alertness, anger and the reliving of bad memories. Pot tends to make people sleepy, mellow, less alert and forgetful. True, a potent strain of sativa can actually cause anxiety in some people, but only for a short while. Have you ever heard of someone, PTSD patient or not, taking a few puffs of weed and doing something crazy enough to make the nightly news? Bath salts and meth, sure. But pot? Not gonna happen.
2. Consider the source: The University of Arizona, which concluded there wasn't enough proof to say pot might help PTSD patients, runs the Center for Integrative Medicine. The Center promotes herbal remedies, ayurvedic medicine, acupuncture and, presumably, whatever Dr. Andrew Weil's store is selling this week. And why aren't there more quality studies about PTSD and marijuana, anyway? The federal government doesn't typically allow them.
3. Marijuana is relatively safe to use: The U of A review commissioned by DHS showed that marijuana apparently doesn't help PTSD patients - and also that no studies show it harms them, either. Pot has an incredibly low toxicity level; medical science lacks a single documented case of marijuana directly killing anyone. Tylenol is poison, by comparison. Prozac and Luvox, two drugs often prescribed to PTSD patients, have been known to causes seizures and death. Yet in one 2000 study by Duke University, Prozac was shown to be no more effective than a placebo for male combat veterans with PTSD.
4. The standard anti-pot penalty is too harsh: Medical marijuana use by a PTSD patient is viewed in two drastically different ways by police and prosecutors. If PTSD were a qualifying ailment, a patient could simply possess and use pot as needed, with no fuss. If a cop catches a PTSD patient in possession of marijuana without a state-issue registration card, the patient would likely be booked into jail, face hefty fines and be slapped with a lifelong criminal record. Making PTSD a qualifying ailment would provide another blow to the hysterical, propaganda-spouting forces of marijuana prohibition.
5. It works, or seems to, anyway: Lots of people who have PTSD say that marijuana helps them. Even Will Humble admits this, but points out that a placebo effect could be responsible. Humble estimates that adding PTSD to the list of qualifying conditions could have added another 15,000 to the list of medical-marijuana patients, (which stands at about 31,000 now.) By deciding not to add PTSD as a qualifying ailment, the state is potentially responsible for letting 15,000 people suffer - placebo effect or not.
As Humble notes in his DHS blog, people who aren't satisfied with his decision will get another chance to make their pleas heard: The state is required to continually review the list of qualifying ailments from now on.