Arizona petition urges pot for PTSD

KINGMAN - People, especially veterans, who suffer with post-traumatic stress disorder may soon qualify for treatment under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act.

The Arizona Cannabis Nurses Association has formally petitioned the Arizona Department of Health Services to include PTSD as a qualifying condition.

"The benefits of treating PTSD with medical cannabis is well founded," said ACNA President Heather Manus.

The petition is in response to the large number of new veterans who have been diagnosed with PTSD - about 240,000 of the men and women who fought in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That's the number of veterans listed with PTSD on Veterans Affairs rosters.

Manus said Oregon and Maine recently added PTSD to their list of qualified debilitating medical conditions, and New Mexico recently ratified the continuation of PTSD as a qualifying condition.

PTSD is a serious health problem. According to Veterans Affairs, suicide in the veteran population has increased 20 percent since 2007, with an average of 22 former service members and one active duty member killing themselves each day.

"The many sufferers of PTSD that are veterans spend swaths of their days needlessly reliving traumatic combat experiences endured while fighting for our freedoms," said Manus. "These returning veterans do not, however, have the full freedom to choose natural, effective remedies like marijuana instead of side-effect ridden pharmaceutical cocktails to treat their PTSD."

If the petition, which was prepared by a team of 2013 University of Arizona graduates, passes health department scrutiny, a public hearing will be scheduled.

Manus, in addition to being a nurse, is the executive director of Heavenly Harvest, the first licensed medical marijuana edibles and infusion kitchen in the state.

"As a practicing psych nurse in Mew Mexico, we successfully treated our returning war heroes and veterans with this natural herbal medicine," said Manus. "Our Arizona veterans and other Arizona residents afflicted with PTSD deserve nothing less."

This will be the third attempt to have PTSD placed on the list of qualifying conditions.

While a stunning number of U.S. veterans who served in the Global War on Terror have been diagnosed with PTSD and traumatic brain injuries, Manus said she has no idea how many of them live in Arizona.

She does know cannabis helps them.

"When I started to learn how effective it was, I felt like I had been lied to (in nursing college)," said Manus.

She said studies prove that if cannabis is administered within 24 hours of a traumatic event, it helps to block violent memories that play a role in PTSD. Manus said cannabis has proved to be "very effective" over time, as well.

"We're hoping the third time is the charm," said Manus, who noted there are no psychological impairments included on the list of qualified conditions.

"That's not right," she said. "We know cannabis provides immense benefits to people with PTSD, depression and who are bi-polar.

"We know cannabis isn't for everybody, but for those who it helps, it helps a lot."