PA: More Than 18,000 People Want Gov. Christie To Sign Marijuana PTSD Bill

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For more than a month, Gov. Christie has not taken any action on a widely touted bipartisan bill that would allow people with post-traumatic stress disorder to use medical marijuana.

Military veterans and medical marijuana advocates in New Jersey have lobbied hard, and have held demonstrations at the Statehouse, to urge the Republican governor to approve the bill, approved by the Assembly and Senate on Aug. 1. The advocates say cannabis helps with insomnia and anxiety caused by repetitive memories of horrific events.

Now, a petition signed by more than 18,000 people is asking Christie to “quickly sign this measure into law, allowing those suffering from PTSD to use a medicine that research has continued to show is beneficial, and a condition that affects 7.7 million people nationwide.”

The Joint Blog, a cannabis news website, launched the change.org petition last month. It said it is aiming for 25,000 signatures.

Seventeen of the 25 states with medical marijuana programs list PTSD as a qualifying condition or allow doctors the discretion to recommend cannabis for PTSD. Pennsylvania, which will implement its program over the next two years, is among them.

New Jersey’s program has a dozen ailments and conditions on its list, including multiple sclerosis and cancer. A health department panel is reviewing petitions to decide whether to add other ailments, including PTSD, but the bill would add the condition to the list sooner.

Christie has declined comment on the bill, saying simply at a news conference last month that he “will read it.”

In a tweet last month, Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo, a sponsor of Bill 457, said “Hey @GovChristie – read it and then sign it!”

Brian Murray, a spokesman, said in an email Wednesday that “we will not comment until we have finished our review.”

Christie’s options include approving it, vetoing it, or doing nothing, enabling it to be enacted without his signature.

At past town hall meetings, Christie often has said he does not want to “expand the program” because he is concerned that people without true medical problems may gain access to cannabis.

He vetoed most of the medical marijuana bills that landed on his desk, but signed a measure in 2013 that allows chronically ill children to use cannabis oils and other edibles. Three years later, Christie’s administration has not granted approval to any of the dispensaries that submitted plans to manufacture the oils.

Last year, Christie signed a second medical marijuana bill that permits children to be given the oils while in school. But a Maple Shade couple who pushed for the bill said it fell short because it does not allow school nurses to administer the oils. The new law requires parents or guardians to provide it to their children.

Roger Barbour, who died suddenly last week from a heart attack, and his wife, Lora, had sued the Larc School in Bellmawr for refusing to allow their epileptic and autistic daughter, Genny, to use the oils at school. The couple had reported that the oils helped control their 17-year-old daughter’s seizures. After losing their court battle, they lobbied for the bill and lawmakers took up the cause.

In June, a bill was introduced that would allow a school nurse or other designated caregiver to provide the oils at schools.

Jim Miller, president of Coalition Medical Marijuana New Jersey, an advocacy group, said that next Thursday, he and others will hold a demonstration at the Statehouse, and that they will create a podcast dedicated to Barbour’s life and to continuing the Barbour family’s “unfinished business.”

Miller vowed to do “whatever it takes” to move the bill along so that “Genny’s school nurse could help Genny take her noon dose of medicine. Otherwise Lora will continue to have to go to school every day to help her simply take a sip of liquid before lunch,” he said.

The coalition also has been an avid supporter of the PTSD bill, which passed the Assembly 56-13 and the Senate 29-9. The bill calls for cannabis to be made available to PTSD sufferers when conventional treatments don’t work.

The petition on change.org cites a “government-funded study released in 2014 using human trials” that showed cannabis holds promise “in PTSD and other fear learning-related disorders.” The petition says another study, released last year, found cannabis provides “central nervous system effects, including increased pleasure and alteration of memory processes,” that helps a PTSD sufferer manage the reexperiencing of bad memories and other symptoms.

Joseph Napoli, a past president of the New Jersey Psychiatric Association, testified against the bill when it was being discussed by lawmakers. “There is insufficient scientific evidence to demonstrate that marijuana is efficacious for treating PTSD,” he said later.

Several veterans have testified that cannabis has helped relieve PTSD symptoms. They cited a high suicide rate among veterans, and said other drugs and therapies had failed to adequately address their problems.

The federal Department of Veterans Affairs says up to 20 percent of Iraq War veterans and 30 percent of Vietnam War veterans suffer from PTSD.

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: More Than 18,000 People Want Gov. Christie To Sign Marijuana PTSD Bill
Author: Jan Hefler
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Photo Credit: Rich Schultz
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