Pubdate: Thu, 30 Jul 2015
Source: Boulder Weekly (CO)
Column: Weed Between the Lines
Copyright: 2015 Boulder Weekly
Author: Gavin Dahl


John Evans insists that calling post-traumatic stress a disorder is 
like cutting yourself and calling the blood a disorder.

"It is a natural reaction to an unnatural event," says Evans, 
director of support group Veterans 4 Freedom. Not only military 
veterans, but women who have suffered domestic abuse or sexual 
assault, hospice workers, EMTs, firefighters, police officers and 
even those affected by natural disasters can have post-traumatic 
stress, he believes.

Evans is a vocal member of the growing contingent of advocates 
demanding public health officials add medical marijuana to Colorado's 
approved list of PTSD treatments. Ten other states have passed 
similar measures. The Medical Marijuana Scientific Advisory Council, 
tasked by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment 
with reviewing petitions based on their scientific merits, 
recommended a yes vote. The state's chief medical officer Dr. Larry 
Wolk endorsed the proposal.

"There's certainly evidence cannabis helps with muscle spasms, 
anxiety and depression," Evans says. "All these are symptoms of 
post-traumatic stress."

On July 15, after dozens of veterans and patients spoke in favor of 
the petition during public testimony, the Colorado Board of Health 
voted 6-2 to reject the latest attempt to add PTSD as a qualifying 
condition for doctor recommended medical marijuana, citing "an 
absence of scientific information."

Local activist Teri Robnett took to the Cannabis Patients Alliance 
blog, under the pseudonym Rx MaryJane.

"The Colorado Board of Health delivered a chilling message to 
patients across Colorado," she wrote. "How many more times do I have 
to parade sick and dying patients in front of a board or committee 
begging for relief, begging for their rights? How many more voices 
will it take to overcome the prohibitionists who cling to Reefer 
Madness and DARE?"

Activists really flipped when they learned that one board member 
moonlights as a Disney princess.

Janelle Orsborn, a 23-year-old actress who portrays cartoon 
characters for a local company specializing in fairy-tale birthday 
parties, and who was also recently named first runner-up to represent 
Colorado at the Miss America Pageant, currently represents Boulder on 
the State Board of Health.

Cannabis Consumers Coalition executive director Larisa Bolivar has 
dealt with PTSD for more than 10 years. She says she felt 
disrespected by the Board of Health's youngest member (Orsborn), who 
finished her bachelor's degree at Metro State University last year 
with a concentration in exercise science.

"She stared at her computer almost the entire hearing," Bolivar 
claims. "She wasn't paying attention to people who were talking about 
how they almost died or brought themselves back from the brink 
through cannabis use. We were once again paraded in front of uncaring 
policy makers. This is outrageous."

Robnett wrote on her blog that one board member (Orsborn) said she 
didn't want Colorado patients to be an experiment.

"I have news for her, they already are," she wrote. "Patients are 
experimented on daily. Pharmaceuticals for mental conditions are 
prescribed on a trial-and error basis. Patients find themselves on an 
endless treadmill of one drug after another, often in combination 
with documented side effects as severe as uncontrolled muscle spasms, 
suicidal thoughts, addiction and death. That is, until they find 
their way to cannabis."

Evans, who leads the veterans support group and also volunteers with 
Bee Safe Boulder, says the Board of Health members who voted against 
allowing medical cannabis for patients with PTSD are in the stone-age.

"I think the numbers were 48 to 2 in public testimony," he recalls. 
"The fact that they voted that day with very little deliberation 
tells me that they were pre-determined not to even listen to anyone. 
The anti-marijuana movement is based on lies and propaganda and 
they're all falling apart. That's why I'm not going to get upset over 
a young lady on the Board of Health that's not qualified. I don't 
want to blame one person, it was collective."

Bolivar says, "By putting PTSD onto the registry as an affected 
condition, it gives patients the ability to have a relationship 
that's open and honest with their doctors, to say that they are using 
cannabis for PTSD. We can't wait 4 or 5 more years for a clinical 
study while 22 veterans kill themselves each day."

Evans adds that there are indications medical marijuana states are 
seeing lower suicide rates. In 2013, the American Journal of Public 
Health reported suicides among men ages 20-39 were reduced by an 
average of 10.8 percent in states with medical marijuana, compared to 
states with no program.

"We know it reduces suicides and we have veterans telling us it 
reduces suicides," he says. "How do you do a scientific study about 
nightmares, for example, other than by asking veterans? Do you want 
to wait for research, or do you want to stop suicides?"

For the record, the only two board members who voted in favor of 
listing PTSD as a treatable condition were Jill Hunsaker-Ryan from 
Eagle County and Joan Sowinsky, an environmental and occupational 
health consultant.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom