Veterans in New Jersey are speaking out before the state government and elsewhere in an effort to raise awareness about using medical cannabis to treat symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Specifically, the veterans’ testimony is to supplement debate on a bill making its way through state government on the question of whether to allow veterans with PTSD to have access to medical cannabis.
Dan Karpowich, a disabled veteran, testified before the state Senate’s health committee last month to explain how medical cannabis reduces the anxiety and sleeplessness for veterans suffering from PTSD.
Specifically, Karpowich told of a haunting memory in which he discovered the bodies of seven fellow services members who perished in an airplane crash during a 1984 mission. According to Karpowich, the experience led to his alcoholism and contributed to his insomnia and anxiety in the years following.
The testimony appeared to pay off: The bill was passed by the health committee by a vote of 6-3, which puts the bill up for debate before the full Senate on Monday, August 1, when it will also face a final vote. A measure has already passed the assembly with support from both parties.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) has not yet commented on whether he will sign the bill. According to Christie spokesperson Brian Murray, Christie “will comment when a final bill is received and we have had ample time to study it.
The state’s health commissioner, Cathleen Bennett, in March appointed a select panel to study what health conditions should be added to the list of illnesses that qualify for medical cannabis. Ken Wolski, the executive director of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey and a former nurse, has in the past pressed the panel to add PTSD; Wolski now plans to submit to Bennett a petition that looks for chronic pain to be added to the list of qualifying conditions.
“Chronic pain is a qualifying condition for people with HIV-AIDS and cancer [to use marijuana].... How can they justify limiting marijuana therapy for two disease states and ignore it for others?” he asked.
The nation’s veterans have been increasingly outspoken in recent months regarding the benefits of cannabis in treating their combat-related illnesses, including PTSD. The DEA has taken notice, approving the clinical study of cannabis to assess the substance’s possible benefits in treating them.