July 7th, 2010
11:49 AM ET

Vet petitions to have medical pot OK'd for PTSD

Kevin Grimsinger dreads the night.  He often wakes up with searing memories of what happened years ago.  Grimsinger, 42, is a former special forces medic.  He served in Kosovo and the first Gulf War.  Grimsinger's life changed in 2001, when he stepped on a land mine in Kandahar, Afghanistan.  He lost parts of both his legs and broke his back.  But it's the injuries you can't see that he says are the worst.

"I don't sleep.  I don't eat.  When I do sleep, it is broken up because of nightmares,"  Grimsinger said during a recent conversation from his Colorado home.

Along with chronic pain and anxiety, doctors have diagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD.  Grimsinger says marijuana is the only thing that helps him sleep and keeps the demons at bay.  "I don't smoke to get high.  I smoke to take care of my pain and my spasms and to eat," says Grimsinger.

On Wednesday, Grimsinger petitioned the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to add PTSD to the list of conditions eligible for medical marijuana.  The department received its first petition to add PTSD in May.  According to Mark Salley, Communications Director for the department, it is creating an advisory committee to establish rules for consideration to add ailments for authorization for medical marijuana.  Grimsinger already is eligible to use medical marijuana for his chronic pain.  He says he filed the new petition for others who suffer from PTSD. "It's not for me ... it's for the thousands of veterans and civilians who are suffering on a daily basis," he says. 

Medical marijuana is legal in 14 states.  Only one other state, New Mexico, allows PTSD to be treated with it.  According to a 2008 Rand Corporation study, nearly 20 percent of military veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan suffered from PTSD or depression.

But does marijuana help with PTSD? According to Dr. Marcel Bonn-Miller, director of the Substance Abuse and Anxiety Program at the National Center for PTSD & Center for Health Care Evaluation, at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, there is no evidence to suggest marijuana is effective.  Still, veterans like Grimsinger say using marijuana allows them to function.  "I don't know if it took my pain away or took my head away from the pain," he says.  "It lets me lead an active, productive life."

soundoff (275 Responses)
  1. Hawaiianian

    Where did people get the idea that the government should protect us from drugs? I personally don't want that kind of government. Where do people get the idea that a government should stop people from using mind altering substances? The thought that it's ok for the government to make certain drugs "illegal" is actually a very radical thought. The government has no place doing things like that.

    July 8, 2010 at 01:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Taysa

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      September 14, 2012 at 01:39 | Report abuse |
  2. Mitch22

    Marijuana is a FREAKING PLANT!!!! If, when it isn't adulterated by man (lacing it with Coke or whatever), it is a HEALING HERB... Pot is a replacement for many pharma drugs... That's why it's illegal... The Drug companies cannot patent something created by GOD... They just patent bits and pieces of the plants and add rat poison (Coumadin) and call it good for profit... Legalizing pot across the board would destroy the drug industry... As a Veteran of Iraq myself, I know it helps in everything from pain to PTSD to Traumatic Brain Injury... But I can't get it from the VA, because they are just pill pushers like the civilian docs... I don't want to buy it off the street, I want to get it from the VA... Wish me luck, I won't hold my breath

    July 8, 2010 at 05:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Matt

    Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness...It seems to me (current soldier) that there has been a lid put on that. Will the government ever keep their nose out of our business? I'm not a user of medical/casual cannabis, but I DO believe in the rights (if you want to call them that) we as citizens have.

    To anyone who feels a former soldier shouldn't be allowed to express their freedom in medical choices, I will gladly hand over my machine gun and let YOU do the "protecting." With a weapon in hand, I'll begin to tell you what you can or cannot do, grow, sell, consume, and so on. Yes, we volunteered for our line of work, and were not required to enlist. But in my oath I swore to defend the constitution, whether it be a foreign OR domestic issue. I feel this is a domestic attack on freedom of choice. Many soldiers join the US Armed Forces to pay tribute to the free nation. I'm just another one of them.

    Quick question; Does anyone else find it mildly ironic that the same government (of a different era) REQUIRED cannabis to be grown by farmers upon conception of our great nation, and now it is illegal? Thank you yellow journalism of the mid 1930's, wow.

    July 8, 2010 at 11:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Disabled vet Brian

    Cannibis is the only thing keeping me from a breakdown. Years of hard charging mobility have taken their toll on my body with my discs slowly falling away. I have PTSD. My family is scared of me at times and the amount of medication the VA has provided me with will make most people vomit. Not just the price and quantity of pills but the physical amount I must consume. I have been off of pain meds for about a year now because I discovered marijuana was working better. I soon found it not only curbed my back pain somewhat but I was also interacting better with family/friends/coworkers. Marijuana helps me sleep at night and the nightmares are way less frequent. I hide in my basement like some sort of delinquint. I cannot have my family find out what has been making me better or I will be shunned. I have to purchase my marijuana from people I have to trust so that I may continue to work without getting caught. I feel like a degenerate for having to cope with this pain by doing something our people labeled illegal but this is what works and don't you dare tell me that I have to be assigned these multitudes of drugs that are causing more harm than good rather than consume one drug and ease my pain alone. Proud Soldier. Proud American. Pround Man.

    July 8, 2010 at 12:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Willlard

    We had a poll in our office with intresting results. Ofcourse everybody did not participate (it was completely optional). What was found was the majority of the employees who were against any form of cannabis actually still believed in the fable of killing brain cells, gateway theory(more lies from Harry Anslinger), most addictive substance ever, and it causes cancer. I had a movie night at my place and invited ANYONE who wanted to see The Union: The Business Behind Getting High. I handed out the survey again the next day at work to the 17 people who came over to my place, and collected them again at the end of the day. Nobody, after knowing the truth behind it, was against it. Keep in mind that 4 of the 17 people didn't use cannabis, alcohol or cigarettes at all. This came as quite a shock when I found this out. Education on the subject would end prohibition, period. I'll leave you with a quote, and it holds true:

    "While marijuana may not be addictive, learning about it and its history soon becomes."

    July 8, 2010 at 14:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Willlard

    Lol @ Harry Anslinger, you just KNOW he was racist. Here are some quotes that were actually recorded in his campain notes about Cannabis.

    "By the tons it is coming into this country — the deadly, dreadful poison that racks and tears not only the body, but the very heart and soul of every human being who once becomes a slave to it in any of its cruel and devastating forms…. Marihuana is a short cut to the insane asylum. Smoke marihuana cigarettes for a month and what was once your brain will be nothing but a storehouse of horrid specters. Hasheesh makes a murderer who kills for the love of killing out of the mildest mannered man who ever laughed at the idea that any habit could ever get him….”

    "There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing, result from marijuana usage. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others."


    July 8, 2010 at 14:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Entropy

    I don't smoke anything, and never will. However, I do not believe that something that grows naturally on this earth should be illegal unless it is used to harm someone.

    July 8, 2010 at 16:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Former combat medic


    Move to California – forget all this hassle ! ! ! !!

    Best wishes,


    July 8, 2010 at 17:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Winbender

    Works for me...

    July 10, 2010 at 14:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. writerpro25

    Hey, if pot is used to treat symptoms of chemotherapy and that is legal, then it should also be legal to treat other illnesses and symptoms. Who are we to say what kind of pain people should and shouldn't suffer. http://stonerdiary.wordpress.com

    July 10, 2010 at 23:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Petie

    I have PTSD from a horrible event in my life, i am also what they call a dual diagnosis case. I have smoked weed legally for my condition for five years. I have the restless legs, spasms, generalized anxiety, insomnia, trouble eating, and depression from PTSD. Marijuana in its many forms and products has helped me to cope with life and get through the daily grind without losing my head. Theirs actually colleges where i live(CA) just for teaching people about medicinal MJ, how to grow and cultivate your own. My question is about smoking weed while taking SSRI meds. I have heard conflicting reports from doctors and people i know. I am currently taking both and feel alright except for my leg twitch which shoots off continuously. Any info from you guys would be great.

    July 14, 2010 at 19:46 | Report abuse | Reply
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      September 14, 2012 at 01:13 | Report abuse |
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