Assembly Approves Bill to Expand Medical Marijuana to PTSD Patients

Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo, sponsor of a bill to offer medical marijuana to PTSD patients

Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo, sponsor of a bill to offer medical marijuana to PTSD patients

TRENTON — A bill to offer medical marijuana to patients suffering from PTSD cleared the state Assembly Thursday. Under current statutes, only those patients suffering from certain chronic conditions like cancer, HIV/AIDS and Crohn’s disease are eligible to be prescribed the drug. The measure passed 55-14 with seven abstentions, and will go on to the Senate.

Primary sponsor Vince Mazzeo (D-2) said after the vote that he believes veterans suffering with the conditions will be the ones to benefit most if the bill is successful.

“Veterans – especially post-9/11 veterans – are the group most affected by PTSD,” Mazzeo said in a statement.  “The VA has stated that it wants each veteran to find the medication with the least amount of side effects that allows them the optimum level of independence.  For many, medical marijuana is the drug that best fits that criteria and the only one to provide veterans with significant relief from the anxiety associated with PTSD.”

Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-15), who is sponsoring his own legislation to legalize recreational marijuana in Atlantic City and also served as a primary sponsor of the PTSD inclusion bill, pointed to the drug’s potential as an alternative to traditional medications with more side-effects.

“Statistics show that roughly one out of five military personnel deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan have experienced PTSD,” said Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon).  “Meanwhile, medical marijuana has been reported to alleviate many of the debilitating side effects of PTSD without the anesthetizing quality of many traditional medications.  Given PTSD’s prevalent and debilitating nature, we should be doing whatever we can to help victims cope and overcome it.”

Tim Eustace (D-38) and Jamel Holley (D-20) also served as sponsors.

“If medical marijuana holds the promise of helping more veterans overcome combat-related trauma and assimilate back into civilian life, we should be helping, not hindering that,” Holley said.

The legislation could face opposition from Governor Chris Christie, who has taken a hard line against statewide legalization and expansion of the state’s medical marijuana program. Christie reluctantly signed a compromise bill to allow prescription edibles for children earlier this year, but holds that medical marijuana could become a backdoor for illegal recreational use.