Veterans asked lawmakers on Tuesday to back a bill that would add post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to the conditions that qualify for the use of medical marijuana. It would be the first mental health condition to qualify.
Cory Kemp, who was blinded, suffered a traumatic brain injury and diagnosed with PTSD after a bomb explosion in Afghanistan, said medical marijuana helped when traditional medicine did not.
“After trying four pharmaceuticals, and having some pretty negative side effects about 15 months ago I was able to wean myself off that last pharmaceutical. I’ve been using cannabis exclusively, not only have I had greater relief from a lot of the effects of my brain injury and PTSD, I’ve been able to have that relief without the debilitating side effects that I had with those pharmaceuticals that pretty much kept me confined to a chair for the majority of my day,” he said.
Kemp was one of several veterans and others who testified in favor of the bill.
Currently, medical marijuana is available to patients diagnosed with terminal or debilitating medical conditions, including cancer, AIDS, epilepsy and chronic pain. Senate Bill 5379, sponsored by Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, would add Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a qualifying condition. While veterans appeared before the Senate Health Care committee on Tuesday, anyone diagnosed with the condition could qualify.
However, Seth Dawson of the Washington State Psychiatric Association spoke against the bill, saying the research shows that marijuana is not an effective mental health treatment. He was the sole opponent who testified against it.
“We wish we could say that the research bears out the claim that the use of marijuana would be beneficial in this context, but that’s not what the research says,” Dawson said. He said the use of marijuana correlates with worse outcomes and stopping the usage correlated with improved outcomes.
If passed, the bill would be in effect under either bill being considered in the Senate that would regulate the use of medical marijuana. A bill sponsored by Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, passed off the floor last week. Another bill by Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, passed out of the Commerce and Labor Committee and was referred to Ways and Means on Tuesday.
*This post has been updated to correct a misspelled name.