Of the nearly 7,000 actively enrolled patients in the state's Medical Cannabis Program, roughly 40 percent of them use marijuana to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. That all could change soon as a local psychiatrist plans to petition PTSD as a legitimate qualifier for the MCP.
William Ulwelling, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine and a distinguished fellow at the American Psychiatric Association, wrote to July 29 to MCP Interim Program Manager William "Butch" Catanech that he'll be testifying at the next Medical Cannabis Advisory Board meeting, which will reportedly occur on Nov. 7 at 1pm at the Harold Runnels Building (the Department of Health website lists that the next MCAB meeting is Wednesday, April 18—six months ago).
"There is a recognized association between PTSD and cannabis, but the primary accepted association is that PTSD sufferers have an increased vulnerability to alcohol and substance abuse disorders, and have a higher incidence of cannabis abuse," Ulwelling writes in the letter. "Offering cannabis to a PTSD sufferer increases the risk of substance abuse."
"It's the whole 'gateway drug' thing all over again," Larry Love, a medical marijuana advocate and host of MedicalMarijuanaRadio.com, tells SFR.
Studies on whether marijuana use leads to harder drugs are largely conflicting, with many discrediting the theory. Other studies have shown that medical marijuana can have a positive effect on PTSD. MCP patients in New Mexico like Krista Robbins, who has PTSD, credit medical marijuana with getting them off of more harmful prescription drugs.
"For many people it's a gateway out [of harmful drugs]," Love says.
New Mexico is one of two states with medical marijuana programs that list PTSD as a qualifying condition (California's program allows for "serious medical conditions," which PTSD falls under). Several of New Mexico's PTSD patients are also veterans.
In his letter, Ulwelling also provides a medical study linking marijuana use to psychotic disorders.
In order for the petition to succeed, the MCAP and the secretary of the Department of Health, which administers the program, would have to make the decision to pull the plug on PTSD. The outcome could take nearly half of the state's medical cannabis patients out of the program.
"It's insane," Len Goodman, Executive Director of medical cannabis producer New MexiCann Natural Medicine, tells SFR. "It's ridiculous."
Love says he's planning to ask Ulwelling to debate the issue with him on his online radio show.
"I question his motivation behind this," Love adds.
SFR will have more on this issue as it develops. Read Ulwelling's letter to petition against PTSD as a qualifier below:
Santa Fe Reporter