Is Marijuana Good for Mental Health? It Just Might be, Review Says

The findings of an analysis published in the journal Clinical Psychology Review suggests that cannabis may potentially be an effective treatment for certain mental health disorders, and could even help people break free from serious drug addictions. [1]

Access to marijuana is growing. Cannabis is currently legal in some form in 29 U.S. states. And even despite marijuana being legalized for recreational use in a handful of states, it remains the most widely-used illicit drug in the United States.


Source: Marijuana Policy Project

But marijuana has proven to be an effective treatment for epilepsy (including rare forms of the seizure disorder) and has been shown to ease pain, prevent multiple sclerosis-related inflammation in the brain and spinal cord, and kill cancer cells. Cannabis has also been shown to be superior to drugs for Alzheimer’s disease.

Many marijuana users say the drug helps their depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and theis review seems to back their claims.

The Review

Led by Zach Walsh, an associate professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia in Canada, the researchers conducted a systematic review of 60 studies assessing the effects of either medical or non-medical marijuana on mental health and substance abuse.

The findings were sort of a mixed bag. The team found that medical marijuana shows potential for treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and social anxiety.

Walsh said:

“This is a substance that has potential use for mental health. We should be looking at it in the same way [as other drugs] and be holding it up to the same standard.” [1]

However, in people with psychotic disorders like bipolar disorder, the side effects may outweigh the benefits.

The review also indicated that marijuana could be a viable treatment for serious drug addiction, though more research is needed.

Walsh said:

“We are really excited about the potential substitution effect. If people use cannabis as a replacement for opioid medications, or to get off of opioids or cut back, we could see some pretty dramatic public health benefits. The level of opioid overdoses is so high right now.”

The evidence to date suggests that medical marijuana causes only minor side effects, such as impaired short-term memory and temporary problems with cognitive function. Medical cannabis does not appear to raise the risk of self-harm or harm to others. [2]

But researchers face a major hurdle in studying the efficacy of marijuana in treating mental illness and drug addiction: The federal government refuses to reschedule marijuana. Right now, it’s a Schedule I drug, meaning the government does not recognize its medicinal value, and it has a high potential for abuse.

Researchers argue that rescheduling cannabis would also help eliminate the stigma associated with it, which would open the door to better studies.

“I think people will derive more benefit if they can speak more openly with providers about whether they are using cannabis and why.” [1]

Source: Business Insider

Walsh envisions a “dream trial” that would compare whether people wanting to stop using opioids in favor of marijuana see better results than those who receive a marijuana placebo or those who try to quit with methadone or behavioral therapy. [3]

Even as we speak, Walsh is heading up a clinical trial of cannabis that is being funded by a medical marijuana producer, Tilray. Another researcher on the study has been a consultant for other medical cannabis producers. Walsh sees no conflict of interest, because it’s difficult to secure funding for marijuana-related research. He explained:

I think we are entering a different world, but for now a lot of the research, at least in Canada [where Walsh is based], is funded by the producers.” [1]


[1] Time

[2] Medical News Today

[3] The Globe and Mail

Marijuana Policy Project

Business Insider

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Senate Appropriations Committee OKs Medical Marijuana for Vets

In July 2017, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted 24-7 to approve an amendment that would allow vets legal access to medical marijuana as part of the 2018 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. The bill, if met with final approval, would allow physicians at VA hospitals in legal marijuana states to recommend and write medical cannabis prescriptions for veterans. [1]

The amendment is intended “to prohibit the use of funds appropriated or other-wise made available under this Act to interfere with the ability of veterans to participate in medical marijuana programs approved by States or deny services to such veterans.”

VA doctors are currently prohibited from completing the paperwork necessary for their patients to access medical marijuana. The rule has been expired for more than a year, and the VA has yet to author a replacement.

Fortunately, the amendment is now attached to the appropriations bill that pays for VA operations. Hopefully this time it will be a success; in 2016, a similar amendment was pushed through by both the House and Senate, only to be stripped from the appropriations bill by a conference committee.

Sen. Steve Daines, a Republican from Montana who sponsored the measure, said the amendment “simply allows the VA patients in states with medical marijuana programs to discuss that option with their VA doctor or physician.” [2]

The American Legion and AMVETS, 2 of the largest and most influential veterans’ groups in the country, have urged the federal government to allow vets access to medical cannabis. The American Legion took the step of sending a letter to President Trump asking for his help in changing the policy.

The letter reads:

“The American Legion respectfully requests a meeting with President Trump as soon as possible and looks forward to partnering with this administration in the fight against narcotics addiction and reducing the veteran suicide rate from the tragic loss of 20 warriors per day, to zero.”

Read: VA Head Comes Out in Support of Marijuana for Vets with PTSD

Trump could support the amendment, or he could veto it or demand that the language once again be yanked from the bill. [3]

Paul Armentano, deputy director of the pro-marijuana organization NORML, said:

“Given the rising level of both public and political support in favor of medical cannabis access, especially for veterans – coupled with the increasing lobbying efforts from veterans’ groups like the American Legion and AMVETS – I would not only anticipate members of the House and Senate to once again approve this reform legislation, but also to do so in greater numbers than last year.

The question that remains, however, is whether high ranking Republicans or the Trump administration will respect this vote, or will they turn their back on the needs of veterans and the will of overwhelming majority of voters.”


[1] Merry Jane

[2] The Fresh Toast

[3] LA Weekly

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Gov. Scott’s Signature Makes Medical Marijuana Officially Legal in Florida

Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a bill into law on June 24, 2017 officially making medical marijuana legal for patients with certain debilitating diseases. [1]

Ben Pollara, the executive director of Florida for Care, said:

“This is a good day for sick and suffering Floridians. The signing of this law provides a framework for the future of our state’s medical marijuana system and while it is far from perfect, it will begin providing access to patients.”

The legislation formalizes an amendment to the state constitution approved by 71% voters last fall that legalized medical marijuana, and establishes regulations for the new industry. [2]

Scott himself voted against the amendment and did not issue a statement upon signing the bill. He had earlier indicated that he would sign the legislation.

Under the bill, medical marijuana will be available with a doctor’s prescription to Florida residents with cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s disease, or any other debilitating conditions.

In order to prescribe medical marijuana, doctors must first go through 2-hour training to become certified by the state. The state will set up a registry of eligible patients, which doctors must check before prescribing cannabis.

Seventeen growers have been licensed in Florida, and each license holder may have up to 25 dispensaries. The state will make another license available with each 100,000 new eligible patients added to the registry.

The bill also clears the way for 10 more medical marijuana treatment centers by October 3, 2017, which is the deadline for the rule to be enacted. There are already 7 treatment centers operating.

Medical marijuana products can be sold as edibles, vapes, sprays, and tinctures. Smoking marijuana is prohibited under the law. The law allows patients to receive an order of three 70-day supplies before having to be re-examined by a doctor.

The ban on smoking riles John Morgan, the Orlando trial lawyer who financed the constitutional amendment’s campaign, and he has promised to sue. Tampa strip club magnate Joe Rednerk has also promised to sue, but over patients not being allowed to grow their own plants. [3]

Morgan said June 23:

“Great Scott, it’s a no-brainer. Gov. Scott wants to run for U.S. Senate. If he didn’t sign this bill, he couldn’t run for dog catcher. It’s not perfect. I’m going to sue for the smoking but I know there are sick people who will see relief starting in July.”


[1] Associated Press

[2] Orlando Sentinel

[3] Miami Herald

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Medical Marijuana for Treatment of PTSD Gets Green Light in Colorado

Medical marijuana is now a legal treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in Colorado. Governor John Hickenlooper signed SB17-017 on June 5, 2017, officially giving doctors the green light to prescribe cannabis to patients suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Colorado joins at least 20 other states in allowing cannabis-based treatments for the disorder. [1]

Before doctors can prescribe cannabis for PTSD, patients must sit for a consultation and receive a medical background check. Patients approved for medical marijuana will be able to possess 2 ounces of cannabis and no more than 6 plants at a time, and only 3 of those plants can be mature and flowering. However, patients will be able to petition their doctor for more.

For patients under the age of 18, medical marijuana must be approved by 2 physicians, one of whom must be a board-certified pediatrician, a board-certified family doctor, or a board-certified child and adolescent psychiatrist. Additionally, the patient’s parents or guardians living in Colorado will have to consent in writing to the state health agency. [2]

Military PTSD: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

The State Board of Health rejected medical marijuana treatment for PTSD in 2015, saying at the time there was not enough scientific research on how marijuana could affect people with the disorder. It was at least the 4th time the board had rejected the measure. [1]

The state department of health has been studying cannabis treatments for PTSD since 2015, setting aside $3.3 million for the research.

Roger Martin, the founder of Grow For Vets, said:

“What it really does, is it doesn’t get rid of the bad memories that you have, but it kind of just allows you to relax to the point that they’re not right up in front of your head.

Thousands of veterans have told me to my face that cannabis is the only thing that’s ever helped them with PTSD and not one drug that the VA has given has ever helped at all.” [3]

Read: VA Head Comes out in Favor of Marijuana for Vets with PTSD

Dr. Larry Wolk, Executive Director of the Colorado Board of Health (which does not support the legislation) said that some doctors have already started recommending medical marijuana for treatment of PTSD.

“At least if a physician is recommending it, and a physician is involved through the medical marijuana program, then that would be presumably better care.”

This is another positive step we’re taking in allowing the population to further utilize a helpful, underrated medicine.


[1] The Denver Channel

[2] Fox 31 Denver

[3] KRDO ABC 13

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VA Head Comes out in Support of Marijuana for Vets with PTSD

President Donald Trump’s stance on legalizing medical cannabis is a big question mark, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions hates marijuana and has expressed his intent to stiffen drug penalties. But there is at least one person in the government who sees the potential of marijuana as a medicine, and that person is Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary David Shulkin.

Shulkin, a holdover from the Obama administration, told reporters on May 31, 2017, that he’s “interested” in exploring how cannabis can benefit veterans wrestling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). [1]

Source: PTSD Journal

The VA secretary stated:

“Right now, federal law does not allow us at VA to look at that [medical marijuana] as an option for veterans … I believe that everything that could help veterans should be debated by Congress and by medical experts and we will implement that law.

So if there is compelling evidence that this is helpful, I hope that people take a look at that and come up with the right decision. And then we will implement that.” [2]

Read: 21 Lawmakers Push Veterans Affairs to Allow Medical Marijuana

Just a week before Shulkin’s statements, the American Legion (the country’s largest veterans organization) called on the Trump administration to “clear the way for clinical research in the cutting-edge areas of cannabinoid receptor research.”

Currently, VA doctors are not allowed to recommend medical cannabis to veterans because it remains a Schedule I drug under federal law, meaning the government does not recognize its medicinal benefits. Heroin – which killed more than 13,000 people in 2015 – falls into the same category. However, Shulkin emphasized in 2016 that VA doctors can discuss the matter in states where medical marijuana is legal. [1]


[1] attn:

[2] Vice News

[3] UPI

PTSD Journal

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