Should medical cannabis be legal for people with PTSD?

For the first time since the law passed 6-1/2 years ago, New Jersey’s medical marijuana program has a good chance of growing.

Health Commissioner Cathleen Bennett has appointed a medical review panel that will consider adding medical conditions that would qualify patients for the program. The panel is expected to hold a hearing sometime in August to allow people to offer their suggestions.

Post traumatic stress disorder is one of a handful of conditions that veterans and patient advocates have sought to add for several years. The Mayo Clinic defines PTSD as “a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.”

On Monday, the state Senate approved legislation that would add PTSD to the list of qualifying conditions, sending it on for Gov. Chris Christie to consider.

“Millions of people in this country suffer with PTSD, including many military veterans. Extending access to those in New Jersey with this condition can help to ease the pain these individuals experience,” said Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Union), a sponsor of the bill who authored the medical cannabis law.

“We know that individuals with PTSD are using cannabis that they are getting from the streets. By doing so, they are at risk of purchasing a substance that may be laced with a dangerous additive and of getting a criminal charge,” Scutari said Monday.

The bill’s chances are questionable, however, because the medical cannabis law says conditions may be added at the discretion of the health commissioner, based on the advice of the medical review panel.

The legislature, controlled by Democrats, and the Republican governor have been at odds over how to operate the program since Christie took office and inherited the law in January 2010.

What do you think? Vote in our informal, unscientific poll.

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