Access to marijuana could help veterans manage PTSD symptoms, Baker Institute expert says

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May 28, 2014

EXPERT ALERT

David Ruth

713-348-6327

Jeff Falk

713-348-6775

Access to marijuana could help veterans manage PTSD symptoms, Baker Institute expert says
Martin: Marijuana provides an alternative to dependence on alcohol and prescription drugs

HOUSTON – (May 28, 2014) – As veterans return home from combat in the Middle East, many struggle to leave their experiences behind. They are sleepless, anxious and angry, and medications often make the situation worse. Now a growing number of former soldiers are turning to marijuana to treat their symptoms, a treatment that makes them criminals in Texas, according to William Martin, the Harry and Hazel Chavanne Senior Fellow in Religion and Public Policy and director of the Drug Policy Program at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.

WILLIAM MARTIN

Martin has written a feature article, “War Without End,” on the topic for the June issue of Texas Monthly. He is available to comment on veterans’ use of marijuana for medical purposes and the possibility of marijuana legalization in Texas.

“In Texas, former soldiers who risked their lives to serve their country are committing a crime when they use marijuana to find relief from the physical and psychological pain resulting from their service,” Martin said. “Legalizing cannabis, whether for medical or recreational use, won’t restore missing limbs or heal skin scarred by fire, but it can help wounded veterans live a more normal life. That is no small thing in Texas, a state with 15 military bases and nearly 1.6 million veterans, almost 500,000 of whom took part in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Another 527,000 served in Vietnam, a conflict thought to have caused post-traumatic stress disorder in more than 30 percent of its combatants.”

In 1996, California became the first state to legalize the use of marijuana for patients with a recommendation from a California licensed physician. Today, 21 states and the District of Columbia have some system of allowing access to medical cannabis, with several others expected to join them this year, Martin said.

“Veterans could play a significant role in changing minds at the (Texas) Capitol,” Martin said. “Some legislators may not know anyone who has used cannabis to deal with cancer or MS or epileptic seizures, but they all have veterans in their districts, and current data indicate that at least a fifth of them have PTSD. Many others suffer from traumatic brain injury and chronic pain.”

On June 18, Martin will participate in a public forum about his Texas Monthly article at the Baker Institute. For more information, go to www.texasmonthly.com/rsvp/tmtalksptsd.

The Baker Institute has a radio and television studio available for media who want to schedule an interview with Martin. For more information, contact Jeff Falk, associate director of national media relations at Rice, at jfalk@rice.edu or 713-348-6775.

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Related materials:

Martin biography: http://bakerinstitute.org/experts/william-martin.

Founded in 1993, Rice University’s Baker Institute ranks among the top 15 university-affiliated think tanks in the world. As a premier nonpartisan think tank, the institute conducts research on domestic and foreign policy issues with the goal of bridging the gap between the theory and practice of public policy. The institute’s strong track record of achievement reflects the work of its endowed fellows, Rice University faculty scholars and staff, coupled with its outreach to the Rice student body through fellow-taught classes — including a public policy course — and student leadership and internship programs. Learn more about the institute at www.bakerinstitute.org or on the institute’s blog, http://blogs.chron.com/bakerblog.

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