Monday, July 18, 2011
By DAN FROSCH
Published: July 18, 2011
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DENVER — For years now, some veterans groups and marijuanaadvocates have argued that the therapeutic benefits of the drug can help soothe the psychological wounds of battle. But with only anecdotal evidence as support, their claims have yet to gain widespread acceptance in medical circles.
Now, however, researchers are seeking federal approval for what is believed to be the first study to examine the effects of marijuana on veterans with chronic post-traumatic stress disorder.
The proposal, from the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies in Santa Cruz, Calif., and a researcher at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, would look at the potential benefits of cannabis by examining 50 combat veterans who suffer from the condition and have not responded to other treatment.
“With so many veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is a widely accepted need for a new treatment of PTSD,” said Rick Doblin, founder and executive director of the psychedelic studies group. “These are people whom we put in harm’s way, and we have a moral obligation to help them.”
In April, the Food and Drug Administration said it was satisfied that safety concerns over the study had been addressed by Mr. Doblin and Dr. Sue Sisley, an assistant professor of psychiatry and internal medicine at Arizona, according to a letter from the drug administration provided by Mr. Doblin.
But the letter also noted that the project could not go forward until the researchers identified where they would get their marijuana. And that cannot happen, Mr. Doblin said, until the project is approved by a scientific review panel from the Department of Health and Human Services, which includes representatives from an assortment of federal health agencies.
If the proposal is approved, Mr. Doblin said, the researchers will use marijuana grown by the University of Mississippi under a contract with the National Institute on Drug Abuse. It is the only marijuana permitted to be used in federally approved studies.
A Health and Human Services spokeswoman said the proposal was still under review. “The production and distribution of marijuana for clinical research is carefully restricted under a number of federal laws and international commitments,” the spokeswoman, Tara Broido, said in an e-mail. “Study proposals are reviewed for scientific quality and the likelihood that they will yield data on meaningful benefits.”
An institutional review board must also approve the study, as well as the Drug Enforcement Administration, Mr. Doblin said.
Getting final approval from the federal government could prove difficult, Mr. Doblin and Dr. Sisley conceded. They said it was far more challenging to get authorization for a study that examines the benefits of an illegal drug than its risks.
“We really believe science should supersede politics,” Dr. Sisley said. “This illness needs to be treated in a multidisciplinary way. Drugs like Zoloft and Paxil have proven entirely inadequate. And there’s anecdotal evidence from vets that cannabis can provide systematic relief.”
Medical marijuana is legal in 16 states and the District of Columbia. But only New Mexico and Delaware specifically list post-traumatic stress disorder as a qualifying condition for treatment, according to the Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington-based group that supports legal regulation of the drug.
Currently, nearly a third of the 4,982 patients approved for medical marijuana in New Mexico suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, more than any other condition, according to the state’s health department. It is unclear how many are veterans.
One recent Army veteran from Texas who fought in Iraq for 18 months beginning in 2006, said he used marijuana three times a day in lieu of the painkillers and antidepressants he was prescribed after returning home. He asked that his name not be used because Texas does not allow medical marijuana.
The veteran, who said he had been shot in the leg and suffered numerous head injuries from explosions while deployed as a Humvee gunner, said marijuana helped quiet his physical and psychological pain, while not causing the weight loss and sleep deprivation brought on by his prescription medications.
“I have seen it with my own eyes,” he said. “It works for a lot of the guys coming home.”
If the study is approved, veterans who participate would be observed on an outpatient basis over three months, Mr. Doblin said. During two four-week increments, they would be given up to 1.8 grams of marijuana a day to treat anxiety, depression, nightmares and other symptoms brought on by PTSD. Researchers would also observe the veterans for periods when they are not permitted to use marijuana.
In addition to a placebo, researchers plan to use four marijuana strains in the study, each containing different levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a primary component of the drug. One of the strains will also contain cannabidiol (CBD), another ingredient thought to have an anti-anxiety effect.
Mr. Doblin said the veterans would be allowed to use the marijuana at their own discretion. Half will be instructed to smoke the drug, while the other half will inhale it through a vaporizer.
A version of this article appeared in print on July 19, 2011, on page A15 of the New York edition with the headline: Marijuana May Be Studied for Combat Disorder.
There are currently three bills in the California Legislature that need the attention of cannabis law reform activists in the state. The first we have covered extensively, and that’s SB 847, the bill to restrict dispensaries and collectives to more than 600 feet from residential areas. From Americans For Safe Access:
Senator Lou Correa’s (D-Santa Ana) SB 847will require patients’ cooperatives and collectives to be located at least 600 feet from residential zones or uses statewide. This would severely limit – or even eliminate – opportunities for legal access in many cities. Tell your state Assemblymember to vote NO on SB 847.
The second bill is AB 1300, which goes to the heart of safe access in the state.
Assemblymember Bob Blumenfield’s (D-Van Nuys) AB 1300 will authorize cities and counties to ban medical cannabis cooperatives and collectives. This may provoke a rash of new bans on safe access all over the state. Tell your state Senator to vote NO on AB 1300, so that state and local government can cooperate on sensible regulations.Your participation matters. If lawmakers do not hear from you, they will only be listening to our opponents. ASA’s Online Action Center makes it easy to find your Representative and send messages right now.
Nate Bradley from Lawmen Protecting Patients was in Sacramento on Wednesday to testify about AB 1300 and LPP sent out an email about what went on.
Asm. Bloomenfield, a Deputy District Attorney from the Los Angeles County District Attorneys office and a Lt. from the LA County Sheriff’s office, testified in favor of AB 1300.Nate along with numerous other patient groups and advocates from all over the state testified in opposition to AB1300. Bradley testified that while he believes the bill is well intentioned , it needed to be amended to protect the newly “regulated” collectives.Based on the current restrictive regulation/bans that are being fought in court right now, LPP believes AB 1300 will be abused by cites that are currently trying to “regulate” collectives out of existence.Here is how it is written:SECTION 1. Section 11362.83 of the Health and Safety Codeis amended to read:11362.83. Nothing in this article shall prevent a city or otherlocal governing body from adopting and enforcing any of thefollowing:(a) Adopting local ordinances that regulate the location,operation, or establishment of a medical marijuana cooperative orcollective.(b) The civil and criminal enforcement of local ordinancesdescribed in subdivision (a).(c) Enacting other laws consistent with this article.AB 1300 was passed on to the next committee. After the hearing Bloomenfield spoke with the advocates outside. He said was not going to specifically state that local governments “could not prohibit” collectives in AB 1300. He said that he believes that issue should be resolved by the courts. We will continue to lobby his office to amend the bill.After the hearing Nate spoke with the Lieutenant and the D.A from Los Angeles County that testified in favor of AB 1300. Nate briefly explained LPP and talked about the currents needs of patients. Both of them were understanding of the needs of patients but stated they felt better regulation is needed. They agreed that the federal government needed to deregulate marijuana so it could be regulated properly.
Nate was also there to testify in favor of AB 639, which will amend current CA forfeiture laws.
AB 639 would reform CA current forfeiture laws. This bill would be huge in help mmj patient retain their property when raided by law enforcement. On a side note, the spectacle that he opposition to AB639 put on was quite entertaining. I suggest you go to http://www.calchannel.com/channel/viewVideo/2802 and watch the hearing. It is the very last bill that is heard on the clip. It passed in its committee 4-2.Here is summary of a few things it would do.SUMMARYThis bill makes it more difficult for seizing agencies to usefederal asset forfeiture law (which includes few hurdles toforfeiture) by requiring a court order prior to transferringseized property to a federal agency. Specifically, this bill:1)Specifies property is “seized” as soon as the agency takescontrol or possession of it.2)Prohibits state law enforcement, except by court order,from turning over seized assets to the federal government, orseizing them jointly with federal officers, thereby makingseized property subject to federal civil forfeiture law ratherthan state law.3)Prohibits the court from entering an order authorizing atransfer to federal authorities unless:a) The criminal conduct is interstate in nature andsufficiently complex to justify transfer.b) The seized property is subject to forfeiture only underfederal law.c) State forfeiture would unduly burden state prosecutorsor law enforcement.4)Requires the court to provide a property owner the right to be heard before a case is transferred to federal authorities.
Things are moving quickly in California, so make sure you contact your local representative and tell them how you feel about these bills. As ASA said above, if they don’t hear from you, they only hear from our opponents, and that is what they think the populace wants.
Activism can be a simple thing sometimes, and doesn’t have to be time-consuming. But activism is a necessary thing, at least if you want to have input in the laws that will govern you.