Maine PTSD Sufferers Qualify For Medical Marijuana

MAINE: A new state law allowing veterans and others suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder to be prescribed medical marijuana will help them live a normal life, advocates and veterans say.

Under the law that went into effect Wednesday, PTSD joins cancer, glaucoma, hepatitis C and others on the list of conditions patients must have to qualify for medical marijuana use in Maine.

Hundreds of Maine veterans already use marijuana to treat PTSD, but they weren’t previously able to get it from their doctors, said Paul McCarrier, legislative liaison for the Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine.

“This unties the hands of doctors to allow them to treat their patients,” he said.

Retired Marine Corps Sgt. Ryan Begin is one of those veterans already using the drug. Begin lost 4 inches of his right arm, including his elbow, from an IED explosion during his second tour in Iraq in 2004. He started using medical marijuana to deal with the pain, but it has also helped manage his PTSD, which caused flashbacks and nightmares, he said.

“It balances me,” the 33-year-old Belfast resident said. “Instead of being on a roller coaster … you’re more even keeled. … You don’t get too far up, and you don’t get too far down.”

Maine voters legalized marijuana for medical purposes in 1999 and approved a law creating a statewide network of marijuana dispensaries 10 years later. Twenty states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana use, but only six other states allow its use for PTSD, according to the Marijuana Policy Project, a D.C.-based advocacy group.

Gordon Smith, executive vice president of the Maine Medical Association, said the question of medical marijuana use for PTSD treatment is contentious among the medical community.

“We heard both from doctors who felt that particularly people coming back from Afghanistan might be assisted (by it), and we heard from doctors who thought there was not a sound evidentiary basis for it,” Smith said.

 

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