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Advocates plan outreach, education for marijuana PTSD treatment

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Wounded vet Steve DeFino holds jars of homegrown sativa bud. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Wounded vet Steve DeFino holds jars of homegrown sativa bud.
In June, a bill was signed into state law that added post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to the list of conditions that qualify a patient for medical marijuana in Colorado. It was the first time a condition had been added since Amendment 20, which established our medical marijuana system, became part of the state constitution in 2000. The years-long effort to add PTSD involved the legislature, the state health department and the courts. Some of the advocates who helped make it happen gathered at The Warehouse Restaurant in south downtown Colorado Springs on Sept. 28 for a discussion about outreach and education now that the law has taken effect.

The keynote speaker was Dr. Sarah Berke with Holos Health, a firm in Denver and Boulder that makes recommendations for medical marijuana, when appropriate, along with other compatible holistic therapies. She was originally trained in conventional western medicine, and practiced that way for many years, but after training with Dr. Joe Cohen, the founder of Holos Health, she’s now considered a specialist in cannabis medicine. Her presentation covered various methods of medicating with marijuana, from inhalation, to ingestion, transdermals, tinctures and oils, and juicing with raw marijuana.

Cannabis is “clinically proven to extinguish the ‘Intrusive Memories’ that trigger episodes of PTSD,” she said in her presentation. It also helps with anxiety and sleep problems, two other symptoms associated with PTSD. For insomnia, Berke advises, “Inhale to fall asleep, ingest to stay asleep,” suggesting that an edible taken about an hour before bedtime helps to ensure a good night’s rest. In her experience, Dr. Berke has found that a combination of CBD and THC cannabinoids, not just one or the other, works best for pain management.

Other speakers could vouch for that. Many recounted how using cannabis helped them leave pharmaceuticals behind, including Matt Kahl who came back from his second tour in Afghanistan in 2011. The heavy drugs the VA prescribed for him affected his liver, causing jaundice. “I thought I was going to die,” said Kahl about that dark period before he found cannabis for treatment. Now he claims to be in “full clinical remission of PTSD” due to his cannabis regimen.

Kahl’s speech was also somewhat celebratory, since he’s been lobbying for PTSD to become a qualifying condition for years, beginning with a chance conversation with Gov. John Hickenlooper at a Denver YMCA.

Around 75 people attended the talk. Sponsors included Lux Leaf, Holos Health, Stratos, Sensi Magazine, Dabble Extracts, Hoban Law Group, Cannabis Art Relief, Pura Elements, and Concentrate Supply Co.

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