Advocates rally for medical marijuana-PTSD study at UA - Tucson News Now

Advocates rally for medical marijuana-PTSD study at UA

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Should medical marijuana be given to those suffering from post traumatic stress disorder? 

Advocates in the industry and veterans rallied outside the state legislature building in Phoenix on Tuesday, outraged after a state senator single handedly blocked a hearing on a bill that would have opened up funding for a research.  The bill sponsored by Tucson state representative Ethan Orr would allocate surplus money from the state health department for this study, which had been approved by the FDA a few years ago.

Many veterans who attended the rally said they were disappointed.  They held up signs saying "Politics should not Trump Science."  The rally was supported by many medical marijuana dispensary owners, cardholders, lawmakers, and the group Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

The group chanted slogans against state senator Kimberly Yee, who chaired the state education committee. Advocates said Yee refused to put the bill on her committee's agenda before the deadline, so it did not even get a hearing. 

Yee did not return our calls for a comment, but in previous statements, Yee has said she preferred to use the money to educate youth about the harmful effects of recreational marijuana use.

Ruben Gallego, a candidate for congressional district 7 said many veterans had been upset by this decision.

"We have an opportunity to do scientific research at one of the best research universities in the country the University of Arizona.  Why not do it?" said Gallego.

Orr said the bill passed in the House with a vote of 52-5 and had strong bi-partisan support.  The study would have been the first step the health department needed in order to even consider adding PTSD to the list of conditions that qualified patients for a medical marijuana card.

Dr. Sue Sisley, an assistant professor at the University of Arizona Medical Center, who got the FDA approval to conduct this controlled study three years ago, said she was disappointed.

"I think that was so heartbreaking for veterans.  It dashed the hopes and dreams of half a million vets here in Arizona," said Sisley.

Veterans groups report that 22 vets committ suicide everyday.  Many vets in the crowd said the numbers hit close to home.

"Yes I suffer from PTSD.  It took me three years to come to grips and be in a position where I could move on with my life," said Ricardo Pereyda, an army veteran who was medically discharged in 2009.

Don Ream, a Vietnam vet he was able to get medical marijuana for chronic pain and it helped him with his PTSD.  Ream said because of medical marijuana he did not have to take any prescription drugs at all.

"It helps me sleep.  It's the dreams, recurring dreams.  Combat related.  It causes behaviors that aren't appropriate, like drinking too much alcohol and anger," said Ream.

Heather Manus, the president of the Arizona Cannabis Nurses's association said she prescribed medical marijuana to veterans when she worked in New Mexico, with promising results.

"It just makes their lives easier to live.. they deserve that," said Manus.

With enough support for the bill, advocates are hoping lawmakers can bring it up again, and get it passed.

Orr released a statement to Tucson News Now saying: "I sponsored this bill because I wanted to do everything we can to support our veterans, and because good policy needs to be driven by research and data.  This bill passed the house 52-5 because I made sure all of the stake holders were involved and listened to."

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