New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is debating whether to sign a bill approved by state lawmakers that would legalize the use of medical cannabis to treat post-traumatic stress disorder.
The bill — approved last Monday by the the state Senate — would allow veterans and other citizens suffering from PTSD to treat the condition with medical cannabis, should more conventional means of treatment fall short.
According to state lawmakers, the plight of veterans suffering from PTSD was a primary concern in the bill’s drafting and passage.
“For many veterans, the effects of PTSD are not always healed by time and can be lasting and profound,” said Assemblyman Tim Eustace (D). “When it comes to PTSD, medical marijuana holds the promise of providing significant relief as it does for many other illnesses and conditions that are not easily treatable with traditional medication.”
Christie has not yet commented on how he is likely to proceed. He has until the end of the summer to make a decision on whether to sign the measure.
New Jersey’s cannabis activists are awaiting Christie’s decision with bated breath. Jim Miller, who heads the Coalition for Medical Marijuana in New Jersey (CMMNJ), has high hopes for the bill.
“There’s a growing excitement thinking there might be a chance,” he said. “I am hopeful that the governor will have a couple of veterans come in and witness the signing. That’s just a good photo op for him.”
Many New Jersey veterans have been outspoken in their support of the measure: Disabled vet Dan Karpowich testified last month before the state Senate’s health committee to explain to lawmakers the benefits that veterans often enjoy from using medical cannabis to treat PTSD.
Gov. Christie has said in the past that he opposes the legalization of recreational cannabis and wants to ensure that the state’s medical cannabis regime does not become a backdoor to recreational use.
Studies are currently underway to test the effectiveness of cannabis in treating PTSD. Yet medical professionals, while hopeful for cannabis’ medical potential, are nonetheless resigned to the idea that medical proof of the substance’s efficacy in treating conditions such as PTSD is still years away.
“There is surely not enough scientific evidence to say marijuana helps PTSD,” University of Pennsylvania Professor Marcel Bonn-Miller, who is also a leading researcher on the issue, said recently. “But we’ll get a heck of a lot closer to knowing the answer in two or three years.”
Nevertheless, the fact that so many veterans have had success with the substance is enough to satisfy the doubts of many cannabis activists, including CMMNJ’s Jim Miller.
“That a veteran would say here is how it makes me feel, the argument that you have no proof that what you say is true is a slap in the face to any veteran who honorably served,” he says. “Their collective word in my opinion should be enough. Let them have it now and then do the tests.”
Stephen Calabria is a New York City-based journalist and a media advisor for nyvapeshop.com.