A bill before the New Hampshire Legislature sought to add post-traumatic stress disorder, commonly called PTSD, to the list of ailments eligible for medical marijuana treatment, Al Jazeera America reported Friday. Medical marijuana was first made legal in New Hampshire in 2013, but has been slow to take root and remains difficult to obtain in the state.
Advocates of the proposed legislation have argued medical marijuana would offer alternative means of pain relief as the state struggles with an ongoing opioid and heroin addiction crisis. In 2015 the state's medical examiner attributed at least 385 deaths to opiates, with pending toxicology results possibly pushing that total past 400, New Hampshire Public Radio reported. That's a sharp rise from 2013 when there were 192 overdose deaths in the state.
Advocates also have argued adding PTSD to the list of illnesses would open another lane of treatment for people who have not found relief with standard medications. Republican state assemblyman Joe Lachance co-sponsored the PTSD legislation, and is one of just 62 medical marijuana cardholders in the state of about 1.3 million people. Lachance, a military veteran and a former police officer, said he suffers from chronic pain and PTSD, which he said marijuana has helped treat.
“I can tell you, yes, it does work,” Lachance told Al Jazeera. “We have an opioid overdose crisis, and by allowing legal access to cannabis we could reduce overdose rates by 30 percent .”
Lachance said the marijuana, while treating his PTSD and pain, also helped him kick an opiate habit. “You don’t get addicted to marijuana. But you get addicted to opioids physically,” he told Al Jazeera .
While medical marijuana is legal in the state, dispensaries have yet to open, making it hard to obtain. Lachance told Al Jazeera he currently has to travel to Maine to legally buy his medical pot. New Hampshire Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan has blocked Lachance's efforts, he said, adding she had “buyer’s remorse" over signing the medical marijuana bill. The governor's office previously tried to put off issuing medical marijuana cards until dispensaries opened.
New Hampshire seeks to add PTSD to list of medical marijuana ills https://t.co/uakyCwhg0P
— Al Jazeera America (@ajam) January 22, 2016
William Hinkle , a spokesman for Hassan, told Al Jazeera the governor understands “how debilitating PTSD can be for those who suffer from the condition,” but later said marijuana was not the answer. “The most effective treatment for PTSD is to consult a mental health professional,” he said.
The first dispensary is scheduled to open in the state in the spring. It remains to be decided if PTSD will be among the qualifying illnesses for medical marijuana in the state. Marijuana has seen a growing level of acceptance in the U.S. Four states -- Washington, Oregon, Colorado and Alaska -- and Washington, D.C., have made recreational marijuana legal.