Bill to Add PTSD to New Jersey Medical Marijuana Program Filed in Assembly

By Scott Gacek | The Daily Chronic

TRENTON, NJ — A bill to add post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, to the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana in New Jersey was filed Monday.

The bill, Assembly Bill 3726, is sponsored by Vincent Mazzeo (D-Atlantic) and Linda Stender (D-Middlesex, Somerset and Union).

Post-traumatic stress disorder is an anxiety disorder that is estimated to impact some eight million Americans annually, including many military veterans returning from combat as well as victims of violent crimes, such as rape.

To date, there are no pharmaceutical treatments specifically designed or approved to target symptoms of PTSD.

“[We] have long hoped that PTSD would be the first condition that would be added to qualify for marijuana therapy in New Jersey,” said Ken Wolski, Executive Director for the Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey. “PTSD is poorly managed by traditional pharmacologic intervention–22 veterans commit suicide every day here in the U.S.”

“Our veterans deserve the best health care available and that includes marijuana therapy,” Wolski added. “CMMNJ is committed to efforts to add PTSD and other mental and emotional conditions to the New Jersey list of qualifying conditions ASAP.”

Studies conducted in Israel — where medical marijuana was allowed beginning in 2005, and has since become a dominant leader in medical marijuana research fueled by Israel’s strong research sector in medicine and technology, have found that THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, is “safe and well tolerated by patients with chronic PTSD.”

“The intervention caused a statistically significant improvement in global symptom severity, sleep quality, frequency of nightmares, and PTSD hyperarousal symptoms,” researchers at the Hebrew University Medical Center in Jerusalem reported in June.

Domestic research has also found that medical marijuana can help treat PTSD. In 2013, researchers at the New York University School of Medicine published findings indicating that PTSD subjects experience a decrease in their natural production of anandamide, an endogenous cannabinoid neurotransmitter.

They hypothesized that an increase in the body’s production of cannabinoids would likely restore subjects’ natural brain chemistry and psychological balance. “[Our] findings substantiate, at least in part, emerging evidence that … plant-derived cannabinoids such as marijuana may possess some benefits in individuals with PTSD by helping relieve haunting nightmares and other symptoms of PTSD,” they concluded.

Assembly Bill 3726 has been assigned to the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee, where it awaits scheduling for consideration. The committee is chaired by Assemblyman Herb Conaway Jr. (D-Burlington), a retired captain from the United States Air Force Medical Corps.

Unlike most states, who’s current legislative sessions have already ended for the year or are wrapping up soon, New Jersey’s current session runs through the end of 2015.

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