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PTSD and the Endocannabinoid System (ECS)

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Many people who have survived life-threatening events experience Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a complex condition that is difficult to treat successfully. Prescribed medications are often ineffective and/or are accompanied by undesirable side effects. Misunderstood and stigmatized, patients are often discouraged and under-served by currently available treatment options.  However, research into the endocannabinoid system (ECS) suggests that cannabis may help relieve some of the symptoms of PTSD.  

In New Jersey, the Assembly passed a bill (A3726) to add PTSD as a qualifying condition for the medical marijuana program.  While there is a companion bill in the Senate, it has not been voted on as of November 2015.

Below is a collection of studies exploring the link between PTSD and the ECS:

Study finds lower levels of endocannabinoids in people with PTSD:
The abstract:
The article:

A study investigating stress induced endocannabinoid deficiency:
The abstract:
The article:

Elevated endocannabinoid receptors in the brains of those with PTSD.  Indicates a reduction in available endocannabinoids in those with PTSD.
The abstract:
The journal article:

More tested abnormalities in PTSD:
The abstract:
The article:

Cannabidiol as a non-psychoactive anti-anxiety treatment.
The abstract:
The article:

Cannabis in German soldier for treatment of PTSD.
The article:

Cannabis for PTSD correspondence:
The article:

Using cannabis to help you sleep: heightened frequency of medical cannabis use among those with PTSD:

Use of a synthetic cannabinoid in a correctional population for posttraumatic stress disorder-related insomnia and nightmares, chronic pain, harm reduction, and other indications: a retrospective evaluation

The use of cannabis to treat those with PTSD:
The article:

Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 November 2015 21:05

Testimony to the New Jersey Senate Judiciary Committee In support of legalizing, taxing and regulating marijuana for adults

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November 16, 2015

Chairman Scutari and members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to address this issue.

My name is Ken Wolski. I am Executive Director of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana—New Jersey, Inc. (CMMNJ) I am a registered nurse with 39 years experience in New Jersey & Pennsylvania. I've studied the issue of medical marijuana for over 20 years. My resume is included in the packet of material I have provided to the committee, along with some recent articles I have published on the subject. I have also included testimony from people who could not be here today.

New Jersey's Medicinal Marijuana Program (MMP) is a failure. When the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act (CUMMA) passed into law in Jan., 2010, the Legislature found and declared that:

  • there was “beneficial use for marijuana in treating or alleviating the pain or other symptoms associated with certain debilitating medical conditions” and,
  • that this “law will have the practical effect of protecting from arrest the vast majority of seriously ill people who have a medical need to use marijuana.”

That has simply not happened in the nearly 6 years since this bill became law.

  • Only five (5) ATCs are open--that's like having 5 pharmacies in the entire state;
  • about 350 doctors are in the MMP--out of over 30,000 physicians in the state; and,
  • about 5000 patients have MMP ID cards, in a state with almost 9 million people.

Marijuana has enormous therapeutic potential, but,

  • Most people who could benefit from marijuana therapy do not have one of the severely limited qualifying conditions;
  • Those who do have a qualifying condition find the application process and/or the Regulations too difficult, or too time-consuming to manage; and,
  • Even those who manage to get an ID card find the program too expensive to afford.

The Department of Health was empowered by the legislation to add qualifying conditions at any time, but they are still not even accepting applications to do so.

Who are the patients who can benefit from marijuana therapy? The remarkable diversity of therapeutic effects of marijuana often make me shake my head in disbelief.

In 1993 I met an asthma patient who told me that smoking marijuana was the only thing that helped his asthma. This went against everything that I believed and taught for the first 17 years that I was a nurse. I repeatedly cautioned asthma patients to avoid any kind of smoke because it might trigger an asthma attack, which can be fatal. Then other asthma patients told me the same thing. Then I read a study that showed that the bronchodilator effects of marijuana along with the anti-anxiety effects overcame the irritant effects of the smoke. Now I believe that smoking marijuana can help some asthma patients.

In 2003 I met Cheryl Miller who was dying of multiple sclerosis while waging a nationwide campaign for medical marijuana. She died a few months after I met her and there was a memorial service for her in Washington, D.C. a little after that. At the service, I met a woman from California who had MS and who was in a wheelchair, as the MS had already paralyzed her legs. This woman told me a remarkable thing. She said, "Ken, when I smoke marijuana, my MS stops getting worse." I didn't believe that was possible. Yet five years later, in 2008, the National MS Society published an Expert Opinion Paper that said marijuana is neuroprotective and that it may delay or even stop the progression of these incurable neurological conditions like MS. I've suspended my disbelief when I hear remarkable stories of marijuana's therapeutic usefulness.

Consider the range of diseases, symptoms and conditions that New Jersey recognizes marijuana as useful for:

  • Seizures
  • Glaucoma
  • Muscle spasticity
  • Neurological conditions
  • Bowel conditions like Crohn's Disease
  • HIV/AIDS and Cancer, if chronic pain, nausea or the wasting syndrome
  • Any terminal illness if there's less than 12 months to live.

That's just the tip of the iceberg. There are hundreds of physical conditions, besides AIDS and cancer, that are characterized by chronic pain, nausea, or the wasting syndrome.

Plus, there are a host of mental and emotional conditions that can be helped by marijuana therapy. Twenty-two (22) veterans commit suicide every day in the U.S. because PTSD is so poorly managed by traditional pharmaceuticals, yet marijuana shows great promise in the management of this condition. One of the cannabinoids in marijuana, CBD, is being used with great success in Europe in treating schizophrenia. Bipolar disorder, crippling anxiety, and Attention Deficit Disorder can also be managed with marijuana.

Marijuana can do all these remarkable things because scientists have recently discovered the system in the human body that interacts with cannabinoids, the components of marijuana. The system is called the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) and it is, in part, a series of receptors in every organ of the body for cannabinoids. The pharmaceutical industry is developing synthetic drugs to manipulate this system and the federal government has a patent on the neuroprotective and antiinflammatory components of this system.

Yet the ECS is only mentioned in 14% of the medical schools in the U.S.

There are hundreds of thousands of people in New Jersey who could benefit from marijuana therapy--perhaps a million or more. After all, if you live in the Garden State, you have a 1 in 3 chance of having a cancer diagnosis at some point in your life. You have a 1 in 3 chance of having chronic pain--pain that lasts 6 months or more. We all die, and marijuana helps with some of the common problem associated with terminal illnesses like no other drug.

This is why CMMNJ endorsed legalization of marijuana in New Jersey. It is the most efficient and effective way to get the therapeutic benefits of marijuana to the vast number of patients who can benefit from it.

CMMNJ believes that marijuana legalization here is inevitable--it's just a question of time. But we need to learn from the failures of the MMP. We need to empower people to produce their own medicine. Home cultivation of a limited amount of marijuana could have a very positive effect on the public health of New Jersey residents. It ensures access to the benefits of this plant, regardless of income status. It can slash health care costs significantly by reducing the need for expensive pharmaceuticals, hospitalizations, and surgical procedures. In states with home cultivation there is a 25% reduction in opiate overdose deaths. The very act of growing a living plant can have a positive effect on a dying person. The NJ State Senate already approved home cultivation in Feb., 2009 when he CUMMA was working its way through the legislature. This time, let's make sure we keep home cultivation as part of the law to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana in New Jersey.

Thank you for your attention.

Kenneth R. Wolski, RN, MPA

Testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee - 11/16/15 - Vanessa Maria

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Honorable Senate Judiciary Committee Members,

My name is Vanessa Maria and I am the Director of the East Coast Cannabis Coalition (ECCC), a regional network based in New Jersey working together with activists, organizations, and other individuals to legalize cannabis at the state and national level. I also serve on the board of directors of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey, a New Jersey based nonprofit whose mission is to educate the public and provide advocacy regarding medicinal marijuana. I submit this testimony and urge you to act as fast as possible to legalize cannabis in New Jersey. 

Across the United States, every 42 seconds someone is arrested for cannabis. This includes the 22,000 people are arrested every year for possession of cannabis in New Jersey. The state spends a staggering $127 million dollars in cannabis prohibition enforcement annually. Cannabis arrests account for 43% of all drug arrests in the Garden State. 

History tells us cannabis was outlawed in 1937 because hemp was a major competitor with nylon and timber. Even then the American Medical Association spoke out against prohibition and advocated for its medicinal uses. History also informs us how Randolph Hearst used his vast media empire to spread propaganda and misinformation about cannabis that still pervades American culture. Several US presidents commissioned studies and investigations on the impact of cannabis prohibition and each time independent commissions came back with the same assessment, Cannabis should be decriminalized and that it has very real medicinal uses. Instead of listening to the commissions' recommendations, Nixon and Johnson implemented even tougher restrictions on the plant. Reagan and Clinton followed suit with tougher sentencing requirements and no tolerance for multiple offenders. 

The reason this has happened is not because our elected officials did not know better, but instead because this is a targeted assault on people of color. The reality is cannabis prohibition and drug policy more broadly is being used as the New Jim Crow. Read Michelle Alexander's best selling book and you will understand how legislators have deliberately enacted laws that discriminate against people of color and the poor. If you read the ACLU report, Black and White in America, then you will see unforgiving evidence of the racial disparity as it relates to arrests of blacks and whites for cannabis. Across the US African – Americans are 2.5 more times likely to be arrested for cannabis than whites. In some states its up to 8 times more likely. This has led to the mass incarceration of people of color. In New Jersey, we are complicit in this abhorrent process by continuing to allow 22,000 people to be arrested each year for cannabis possession. 

There are many severe negative impacts to those who have criminal records for drug arrests. They suffer from not being able to find a job, risk deportation, losing custody of their kids, not being able to find housing, incurring expensive legal fees and debt, not qualifying for state resources, and many more negative effects. It is immoral to continue to inflict these burdens on cannabis users. The punishment does not fit the crime as people arrested for cannabis pose no real threat their communities.

There will be some who testify today that cannabis is a gateway drug but will be unable to offer any scientific evidence qualifying that statement, because there is none. In fact, research offers us quite the opposite conclusion, that the majority of cannabis users never go on to abuse harder drugs. The illicit nature of cannabis is the only thing that puts users at risk of being exposed to other drugs. If it were sold legally in licensed and regulated facilities, cannabis users would never be offered other drugs from the vendor. Furthermore, research shows us that people who abuse drugs tend to fall into one of the following categories: have a mental health disorder, have suffered from a traumatic event, has had a parent that was an abuser of drugs, was prescribed pharmaceuticals and became physically addicted, and/or became exposed to drugs at a very young age. Ask any mental health or recovery professional and they will confirm these findings. The real gateway drugs are alcohol and prescription opiates. I should also not that in states where cannabis has been legalized, the amount of deaths by opiate overdoses has decreased. Other myths include believing youth access to cannabis will increase, however in states where cannabis has been legalized, that number has also fallen. 

The State of New Jersey has recognized cannabis' medicinal uses. International peer-reviewed research shows us that cannabis shows promising results in treating over 100 different conditions. Yet in NJ, we only recognize 12 of them. This has made the program incredibly restrictive with only about 5,000 people registered for the program in a population of 9 million. Even US Senator Booker has recognized the merits of medicinal cannabis with the authoring of the federal CARERS Act. Yet, the Christie administration has done everything in its power to restrict access and deny the proven benefits of medicinal cannabis. 

In addition to not enough qualifying conditions to become eligible to participate in the program, there are not dispensaries, doctors registered to write prescriptions, not enough products, and it is entirely too expensive. What low income New Jerseyan can afford to buy an ounce of medical cannabis for $535 dollars when many cannot afford to pay for heat or healthy foods? It is criminal that we charge so much for medicine when in legal states like Colorado one can easily find an ounce of cannabis anywhere from $150 to $200. If you were in Oregon or California, you might not even have to buy it as home growers of cannabis are ubiquitous and often share their cannabis with friends and family. This is why in addition to legal retail sales of cannabis we MUST allow for home cultivation. It is no different then growing aloe or tea for medicinal use.

Across the nation more than half of the country has some form of regulated cannabis. Four states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis and so far have not suffered negative consequences as a result. Along the East Coast DC has legal cannabis, Maryland, Delaware, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine all have medical cannabis and decriminalization laws. New York state has medical cannabis and NYC has decriminalization laws. Why does New Jersey continue to arrest people for cannabis possession when our neighbors to the north and south do not?

Finally, cannabis should be legalized so we can have access to a green economy that has so far brought in tens of millions in tax revenues to legal states. A green economy would create jobs, allow for innovation and research of cannabis products, increase the per capita income and GDP of NJ, and allow more women to become executives in this industry where otherwise they would not have the same access. 

As a member of CMMNJ and the ECCC, I hear stories every day about how people's lives are negatively affected by cannabis prohibition. I hear from medical patients, people who have been arrested and incarcerated, and from people who want to start their own cannabis businesses. I do not know as moral human beings how you could listen to these same stories and not act on these injustices. For all these reasons, I urge you to legalize cannabis in New Jersey, stop the disproportionate arrests and incarceration of blacks and Latinos, allow more access for medical patients, end the criminalization of using medicinal cannabis, open up a market for a green economy to flourish, and end the war on drugs. I thank you for your time and attention to this matter and for hosting this important hearing.

Respectfully submitted,

Vanessa Maria – ECCC & CMMNJ

Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 November 2015 22:17

Testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee - 11/16/15 - Vanessa Waltz

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 My name is Vanessa Waltz, and I am a Stage III cancer survivor. Since 2011, I have been involved in efforts to reform New Jersey’s broken medical marijuana program. I believe strongly in the freedom to use marijuana recreationally. I also believe that War on Marijuana is a war on people of color. That said, I am limiting the remainder of my testimony today to my experience as a patient and member of the Board of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana – New Jersey, because legalization in our state seems to be the only way to effectively provide all patients in need with legal access to marijuana medicine.

As a CMMNJ board member, I have spoken with numerous patients who have been failed by the New Jersey medical program. More than 5 years after the New Jersey Compassionate Use Act was signed into law, many patients are still obtaining marijuana on the black market, and if they are caught by law enforcement, they are risking arrest and incarceration under our current laws. The reasons patients are still turning to the black market are many, including the following: patients cannot afford the prices at dispensaries; patients cannot physically access dispensaries due to geographic distance; patients cannot afford physicians’ appointments to get ID cards; patients cannot get the quantity of marijuana needed for treatment of their specific illness; patients cannot get strains of marijuana needed for treatment of their specific illness; patients cannot get alternative preparations of marijuana needed for their specific illness (e.g. oils, lozenges, topicals). And perhaps most significantly, many patients with serious illnesses or injuries do not qualify for medical marijuana under New Jersey law.

I qualify for a medical marijuana card in New Jersey because I continue to have severe chronic neuropathic pain from my cancer treatment. However, a New Jersey patient with the same or even more severe chronic pain symptoms as mine would not qualify for medical marijuana unless their symptoms were caused by one of the short list of qualifying conditions. To me, knowing how medical marijuana greatly eases my pain, this disparity seems needlessly cruel and utterly arbitrary. People who are left out include many of the most vulnerable patients, for example, veterans suffering from chronic pain from amputation or other severe sustained injury. And New Jersey is also failing our veterans by not including PTSD as a qualifying condition. Repeatedly, patients contact me or other CMMNJ board members to tell us about their rare – or not-so-rare – medical conditions, and to ask for help obtaining a card legally. My heart breaks every time I have to tell a patient in this situation that New Jersey does not recognize their condition, so they cannot participate in the medical marijuana program. Incredibly, this even happens to terminally ill patients if they may have more than a year to live.

CMMNJ has lobbied continually to add qualifying conditions, to no avail. Even in our other efforts where advocates have been successful, such as creating an allowance for cannabis oil, the program moves so slowly that patients may not benefit for years. And the patients who need this the most, often do not have years to wait. In short, patients are dying while they wait for the program to catch up with their needs. It is no wonder that so many seek marijuana on the black market. And the alternative – obeying the law and not using marijuana – continues to cause needless suffering.

Legalizing marijuana in New Jersey has the potential to remedy many of these issues. No one should go to jail for marijuana, and we should all be aware than many of the people currently risking jail time are simply trying to find relief from their pain in the only way they are able in our state.


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 Some of you may be aware that CMMNJ has availed themselves of the studio facilities at Princeton Community TV, to produce informational programming to educate and enlighten.  We started this project several months ago.  A stipulation in the rules from Princeton TV is that we have six episodes ready for them to start airing.  We have been sharing these videos as our own Lefty Grimes completes the editing process... but, I am happy to announce that we have six and Princeton has started airing them on their public access cable channel.  Don't know where to find PrincetonTV?  No worry.  Here they are:

Episode 1

Episode 2

Episode 3

Episode 4

Episode 5

Episode 6

Understand, some of the images in the videos are quite graphic (children with epilepsy having seizures), but we are very proud of our efforts to educate.  

If you have an idea for a future episode, please send detailed information to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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