In New Mexico, thousands of veterans are living with post traumatic stress disorder. Some of them are joining forces with elected officials to push for increased access to medical marijuana as a treatment for PTSD.
Eighteen states have legalized medical marijuana, including New Mexico. But for military veterans who receive healthcare from the Veterans Administration, this doesn't mean anything. Under federal law, marijuana is still illegal, so VA doctors can't prescribe it.
First District Congressional Representative Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) and State Representative Moe Maestas (D) announced a so-called “Freedom to Choose” campaign today to promote New Mexico’s medical marijuana law. It was passed in 2007 and in 2009 it listed PTSD as a qualifying medical condition.
Michael Krawitz, a disabled veteran and an advocate for medical marijuana, says VA patients often choose to self medicate instead of taking the PTSD treatments VA doctors can prescribe.
"We're working in an arena where the army surgeon general weighed in not that long ago saying the medications that are available aren't the great for PTSD," Krawitz explains. "And the medications that are often used are even worse. Many of them carry suicide as a warning on the label."
Of the more than 9,000 people enrolled in the medical marijuana program here, 3,700 are enrolled with PTSD listed as their primary qualifying condition. But medical marijuana advocates say they still face the stigma and drug testing that can get them fired or make them ineligible to receive VA medical care.
Opponents of medical marijuana programs argue that marijuana is a gateway drug for more dangerous drug usage.