A group of Colorado veterans are forming a pro-marijuana legalization group after state health officials denied a second petition to allow medical marijuana as treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
At a noon news conference today at the El Paso County Court House in Colorado Springs, veterans gathered to announce the formation of "Veterans for 64," a group in support of Colorado's Amendment 64 ballot measure which seeks to legalize and regulate marijuana for adult use.
Iraq War veteran Joe Hatcher, on whose behalf the PTSD petition was filed, made this statement about the group's support of A64:
As a combat veteran, I served our country in Iraq, and I am painfully aware of the devastating impact PTSD has had on veterans and their families. These brave soldiers -- and the many non-soldiers who suffer from PTSD -- deserve legal and safe access to this substance that has been proven to be therapeutically effective in treating this condition. I hope Coloradans will join me in voting Yes on 64, and help veterans and others with PTSD get access to marijuana without fear of arrest and prosecution.
The Veterans for 64 group is being established in response to the Colorado Department of Public Health's second denial to add PTSD to the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana treatment. "In order to approve the petition, the Heath Department must schedule a Public Hearing in front of the Board of Health within 120 days," Brian Vicente, executive director of medical marijuana advocacy group Sensible Colorado, wrote in a statement about today's news conference. "Since 120 days have elapsed since the petition's filing without a Hearing being scheduled, the petition is effectively denied."
"The state's failure to act is an effective denial of this compassionate petition," said Vietnam veteran Bob Wiley in a statement announcing the formation of Veterans for 64. "Our only option is to support Amendment 64, which will ensure that Coloradans 21 and older who suffer from PTSD will no longer be subject to arrest and prosecution for using marijuana."
Vicente also serves as co-director of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, the group behind Amendment 64 which will appear on the November ballot.
In July, the Colorado Springs Independent published a detailed story on why medical marijuana for veterans is such a critical issue. Unfortunately, traditional PTSD treatments don't work all that well and without medical marijuana, there can be limited options for treatment. Vicente explained the dire situation veterans are in to the Independent, "Since the time we last filed this petition, suicides by veterans have spiked. We're now up to 18 veterans committing suicide per day," Vicente said.
If marijuana is legalized in Colorado it would be taxed and regulated similar to alcohol and tobacco. It would give state and local governments the ability to control and tax the sale of small amounts of marijuana to adults age 21 and older. According to the Associated Press, analysts project that that tax revenue could generate somewhere between $5 million and $22 million a year in the state. An economist whose study was funded by a pro-pot group projects as much as a $60 million boost by 2017.
Voters in Colorado, Oregon and Washington state will all be considering whether or not to legalize marijuana for recreational use this November. This is the second time that Colorado voters will decide on pot legislation -- state voters considered and rejected a similar recreational pot legalization initiative in 2006.
States where medical marijuana is legal: