Fittingly, the Oregon Legislature voted to add Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a qualifying condition under the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act (OMMA) just a few days after Memorial Day. While any patient diagnosed with PTSD may get qualified under the state's medical law, the plight of veterans dominated hearings and discussions surrounding the bill. Now, onto Governor Kitzhaber's desk.
The Oregon House just passed Senate Bill 281 36-21, following a 19-11 vote in the Senate. While Democrats overwhelmingly supported the bill, the effort was bipartisan as Republican Senator Brian Boquist sponsored this important bill in the first place. On the Senate side, 6 Republicans joined 13 Democrats. On the House side, 6 Republicans voted "AYE" along with 29 Democrats.
Compassionate Oregon put together a tremendous lobbying effort and should be commended for its great work this legislative session. The National Cannabis Coalition sent Compassionate Oregon some funds following our money bomb, but the group could certainly use more donations to cover costs incurred, to lobby the Governor to sign SB 281 and to help other legislative priorities this session and next. If you would like to make a contribution directly to Compassionate Oregon, you may send a check or money order to: Compasssionate Oregon, 1510 SW Friendly Ct., McMinnville OR, 97128
Adding PTSD as a qualification for enrollment with the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) has been a long road for Oregon activists. I helped attorney Leland Berger prepare a petition on behalf of activist Ed Glick, requesting that the Oregon Department of Human Services add PTSD, and other mental ailments, to the OMMA back in 2005. That petition was denied and Mr. Glick filed yet another petition in 2009. After that denial, it became obvious to activists that the "fix" was in during each petition process, so a legislative fix was needed. Over the years, so many activists have helped this important cause, and everyone should be commended for their great work.
Post-traumatic stress has become an epidemic for members of the military. Veterans' suicides outnumber combat deaths and the mental toll placed on service members is even worse than previously thought as a new study shows that 22 vets commit suicide every day, one every 65 minutes. There is ample evidence that shows how medical cannabis can help alleviate PTSD and its availability could help decrease the number of military suicides.
Of course, it doesn't take military experience to suffer PTSD and this bill has the potential to help thousands of patients improve their quality of life. Research conducted for the National Violence Against Women Prevention Research Center in 2003 estimated that 1 out of 6 women in Oregon have been raped in their lifetime, about 230,000 women. The study found that 31% of rape victims suffer from PTSD (personally, I'm surprised that the number isn't higher) while 13% attempt suicide. In both 2010 and 2011, over 1,200 rapeswere reported in Oregon, but the US Department of Justice estimates that 65% of rapes are not reported to the police. Our military is currently plagued by its own rape epidemic, with a Pentagon report noting that approximately 26,000 service members reported being sexually assaulted in 2012, up from 19,300 in 2010. Over 85,000 veterans sought some type of medical treatment for sex abuse trauma in 2012, with 20% of military women and 1% of military men screening positive for sexual assault trauma.
The number of rape victims and military suicides are simply tragic and shocking. I am so pleased that PTSD sufferers in Oregon, whether the trauma was caused by military service, rape or any other traumatic event, will now be able to utilize a nontoxic medicine to help alleviate their symptoms and improve their lives. While our fight to end cannabis prohibition for all adults continues, bills that move us forward and improve lives, such as Senate Bill 281, are reasons to celebrate.