The state of New Mexico has made it unnecessarily difficult for post-traumatic stress disorder patients to gain access to medical marijuana, according to a new lawsuit filed by a neuropsychiatry specialist based out of Santa Fe.
Dr. Carola Kieve has filed suit against the New Mexico Department of Health as well as the state’s Medical Cannabis Advisory Board in Santa Fe County Court, seeking to rectify what she claims are unfair conditions that make it a needlessly arduous process to acquire medical grade cannabis. Kieve’s complaint asserts that the defendants have imposed requirements that are neither required by nor authorized by state law.
“Furthermore, the defendants have employed as a director of the [New Mexico Medical Cannabis] Program a physician who is irreparably conflicted in the performance of his duties and whose employment and official decision and actions are in violation of the New Mexico Governmental Conduct Act because of his conflict of interest,” the lawsuit reads.
Dr. Kieve’s claim is a reference to Dr. Steven Rosenberg who, while not named as a defendant in the case, has been accused of withholding medical cannabis from PTSD patients unless their doctor provides documented proof that other treatments have failed.
PTSD is a serious anxiety disorder that often develops when a person endures a disturbing experience such as sexual abuse, military combat, or any number of instances which result in near-death or serious injury. Regulated cannabis has proven to alleviate some of the most common symptoms, such as anxiety, traumatic memories, and insomnia.
The Freedom to Choose, a campaign of drug researchers, veterans, and lawmakers, has set out to remove the stigma surrounding medical marijuana and increase awareness about its effects. The activists have been especially vocal in New Mexico, one of the few states in the US where medical marijuana is legally prescribed to those living with PTSD.
Anetra Stanley told AlterNet that her husband Augustine, an Iraq War veteran, was fired from a correctional facility in Albuquerque for his medical marijuana use. Mrs. Stanley maintained that instead of worsening her husband’s mental health, his dismissal only toughened their resolve.
“When he came back from the war, I did see a difference in him…and when it got bad, it was awful,” she said last year. That changed when a doctor prescribed marijuana for his symptoms.
“I saw that man that I knew forever, and I don’t want him to ever go back,” Stanley continued. “I want him to stay on this, and even though it has cost him his job, I would rather search for work and for money than for him to go back to the way he was.”
Dr. Kieve says it is people like the Stanleys that the lawsuit is attempting to help. It states that her patients have been denied access to medical cannabis without sufficient cause and that future prescriptions she hands out will be subject to the same consideration.
“In Dr. Kieve’s medical opinion there was no commercial pharmaceuticals that would have been appropriate for the patient and therefore none had been attempted,” the suit claims. “Dr. Kieve further stated that it was inappropriate for Dr. Rosenberg to demand such information in a PTSD case because such information was not demanded by him or the defendants to support application for the treatment of other debilitating diseases.”
Even further, Dr. Kieve and her legal team claim that relationships Dr. Rosenberg fostered in his private practice are tainting his government employment.
“Dr. Rosenberg is routinely placed in a position of approving or denying applications by his economic competitors, namely other physicians whose patients did not choose Dr. Rosenberg for certification,” the suit goes on, as quoted by Courthouse News. “The [Governmental Conduct Act] states that a state employee ‘shall be disqualified from engaging in any official act directly affecting the public officer’s of employee’s financial interest.”
A small handful of states allow the prescription of medical marijuana to patients with PTSD, with officials elsewhere admitting reluctance because they fear many people will lie about having the anxiety disorder to gain easy access to the medicine.
Yet Anetra Stanley has insisted that, even with changing laws, many patients still face an uphill battle because many “don’t recognize the quality of life this medication gives back to the veterans. We fight for other people to have quality of life, and we should be afforded that opportunity when we get back.”