Traverse City Record-Eagle

Michigan

March 14, 2014

Stress disorder could qualify for medical pot

DETROIT (AP) — Michigan residents suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder might be able to use marijuana to ease their symptoms.

An advisory panel last week recommended adding PTSD to the medical marijuana program by a 6-2 vote. It would be the first new condition since the state's voters approved medical marijuana in 2008. The decision now rests with Steve Arwood, director of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

"When he will do that, I don't know. I'm told it will be in the near future," spokeswoman Jeannie Vogel said.

Chris Lindsey of the Marijuana Policy Project, a national advocacy group, said marijuana can be safer for people with stress disorder than prescription drugs. At least seven states with medical marijuana allow doctors to recommend it for PTSD.

The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., defines PTSD as a mental-health condition linked to a terrifying event. The clinic says symptoms can include flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety and uncontrollable thoughts.

"It can happen to a person after any traumatic event," not just combat veterans, Lindsey said. "It's a condition that can kick a person when they're already down."

Dr. Ronald Bradley of Williamston and Robert Noiva of Rochester voted against adding PTSD to the program. The advisory panel deadlocked on insomnia, 4-4, Vogel said.

Noiva, an associate dean at Oakland University William Beaumont medical school, believes marijuana use by PTSD sufferers could lead to a "vicious cycle" of heavier marijuana use and "heightened negative states."

"There are better methods, coping strategies that don't involve pharmaceuticals at all," Noiva said Thursday.

Michigan's medical marijuana program began after a statewide vote in 2008. It now can be used to relieve the side effects of cancer, glaucoma, HIV, hepatitis C and a few other conditions. Users need certification from a doctor and a card from the state.

About 119,000 people had cards last fall, and 28,000 people were registered as caregivers who can grow marijuana, the state said.

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