Published: Sept. 16, 2016 | Last update May 21, 2017
(Photo credits: [Flag] David McNew/Getty Images, [Marijuana plants] Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)
Lengthy campaigns pushing to secure medical cannabis access for patients diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder are taking hold as states across the country begin approving the condition for marijuana treatment.
In recent months, a series of states have added PTSD to their lists of medical cannabis-approved conditions. And just this week, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a longtime outspoken marijuana opponent, announced his approval of extending medical cannabis access to PTSD patients in the state.
While no large, randomized trials of medical cannabis treatment for PTSD have yet been completed in the United States, extensive anecdotal evidence exists to suggest cannabis effectively treats symptoms of the disorder.
And findings by researchers like Martin Lee, an affiliate with the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) and director of Project CBD, have shown endocannabinoid deficiency to be a major facet of PTSD.
“Scientists have determined that normal CB-1 receptor signaling deactivates traumatic memories and endows it with the gift of forgetting,” Lee said, “But skewed CB-1 signaling, due to endocannabinoid deficits (low serum levels of anandamide), results in impaired fear extinction, aversive memory consolidation, and chronic anxiety, the hallmarks of PTSD.”
Leafly breaks it down like this:
One pillar of PTSD is an endocannabinoid deficiency: the body stops producing enough endocannabinoids to fill receptor sites, and this is where the cannabinoids found in marijuana play a therapeutic role. By replenishing these missing endocannabinoids with those found in cannabis, researchers think marijuana pharmaceuticals might bring PTSD patients relief from their memories.
At least 23 out of 29 states and territories with comprehensive medical cannabis programs currently allow patients to use cannabis for the treatment or palliative care of PTSD.
Browse the following gallery to learn more about which states allow PTSD patients to access medical cannabis and how these laws vary between states.
*This gallery is updated on a rolling basis. If you notice any missing information, please tweet us @ExtractCannabis.
Arizona’s Department of Health Services added PTSD to the state’s list of medical cannabis qualifying conditions in 2014, and the addition went into effect Jan. 1, 2015. Under the law, patients with PTSD may use medical cannabis for palliative care, but not as primary treatment for the disorder. (Photo credits: Chris Hondros/Getty Images;
Arkansas voters passed a medical cannabis law in the November 2016 elections, and PTSD is included among the state’s list of qualifying conditions. Dispensaries aren’t expected to open until late 2017 at the earliest. (Composite photo credits: Michael Porro/Getty Images;
Norman B. Leventhal Map Center/Flickr)
In 1996, California became the very first state to legalize medical cannabis for qualifying patients under Proposition 215. Qualifying conditions include “cancer, anorexia, AIDS, chronic pain, spasticity, glaucoma, arthritis, migraine, or any other illness for which marijuana provides relief.” Physicians in the state can and do recommend medical cannabis for hundreds of indications, including PTSD. (Photo credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Connecticut legalized medical cannabis for qualifying patients in 2012. State residents 18 and older who are being treated for PTSD (among other debilitating medical conditions) by a Connecticut-licensed physician may register with the state for palliative use of medical cannabis. (Photo credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Delaware legalized medical cannabis for qualifying patients in 2011. Under the program, Delaware residents with PTSD can qualify for medical cannabis treatment if the condition “manifests itself in severe physical suffering, such as severe or chronic pain or severe nausea or vomiting, or otherwise severely impairs the patient’s physical ability to carry on activities of daily living.” PTSD patients must be certified by a licensed psychiatrist. (Photo credits:
Noé Alfaro/Flickr cc; Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)
Florida voters passed a medical cannabis program in the November 2016 elections, and dispensaries began operating in April 2017. PTSD is included on the state’s list of qualifying conditions. Qualifying patients may obtain non-smokable forms of cannabis from licensed dispensaries. (Photo credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Hawaii legalized medical cannabis for qualifying patients in 2000. However, the state didn’t establish a regulated dispensary system for medical marijuana sales until 2015 under Act 241, which also added PTSD to Hawaii’s list of qualifying conditions. PTSD patients certified by a licensed physician can apply for a medical marijuana card in hawaii. State residency is not a requirement, but the system is specifically designed to serve patients who reside in Hawaii. (Photo credit: Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)
Illinois legalized medical cannabis for qualifying patients in 2014. PTSD was added to the program as a qualifying condition in July 2016. Under the program, PTSD patients certified by a licensed doctor can apply to register for a medical cannabis card with the state. (Photo credit: Emily Gray Brosious/Extract)
Maine legalized medical cannabis for qualifying patients in 1999. PTSD was added as an approved condition in 2013. Under the law, patients who are certified by a doctor and who have a Maine-issued picture identification card can use medical cannabis without risk of legal repercussions. Maine’s law does not establish a statewide patient registry. (Photo credits:
Nicolas Raymond/Flickr cc; Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Maryland legalized medical cannabis for qualifying patients in 2014. Patients can qualify for medical cannabis treatment if they suffer from any severe condition that hasn’t responded to other medical treatments, for which the symptoms “reasonably can be expected to be relieved” by cannabis use. PTSD is among these conditions. Patients need a written certification from a doctor to register with the state. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Massachusetts legalized medical marijuana for qualifying patients in 2013. Under the law, patients diagnosed with PTSD (and/or other qualifying conditions) need to be certified by a licensed physician before applying for a medical marijuana ID card with the Massachusetts Department of Health. (Photo credits:
Norman B. Leventhal Map Center/Flickr cc; Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Michigan legalized medical marijuana for qualifying patients in 2008. PTSD was approved as a qualifying condition in 2014. Patients need certification from a licensed physician and a state-issued photo ID to apply to the Michigan Medical Marihuana Program. Dispensaries are technically illegal in Michigan, although this is selectively enforced and a patchwork system of dispensaries does exist across the state. Legislation to establish an officially regulated and legal dispensary system is currently headed to Gov. Snyder for review. (Photo credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Minnesota initially legalized medical cannabis in 2014, and the state expanded its qualifying conditions list to include PTSD in December 2016. Under the new law, patients certified with PTSD will be able purchase medical cannabis from the state’s two medical cannabis manufacturers starting August 1, 2017. (Image credit: Nicholas Raymond/Flickr cc)
Montana legalized medical cannabis in 2004, and in 2016, voters passed an initiative that added PTSD to the list of conditions that qualify for medical cannabis. The new law takes effect July 30, 2017. (Photo credit:
New Jersey legalized medical cannabis for qualifying patients in 2010, although it took nearly three more years for the program to become operational. Gov. Christie approved PTSD as a qualifying condition in September 2016. To register with New Jersey’s medical marijuana patient registry, qualifying patients must have proof of New Jersey residency and certification from a state-registered medical marijuana physician. (New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie photo credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
When New Mexico legalized medical marijuana for qualifying patients in 2007, PTSD was included among the state’s list of debilitating medical conditions. To qualify for the state program, a patient must be a New Mexico resident “who has been diagnosed by a practitioner as having a debilitating medical condition and has received written certification and a registry identification card” issued in New Mexico. (Photo credit: David McNew/Getty Images)
Nevada legalized medical cannabis for qualifying patients in 2001. Under the law, patients with PTSD (and other qualifying conditions) need written documentation from their physician that cannabis might help their condition as well as a state-issued photo ID (like a driver’s license) to apply for a medical cannabis ID card with the state. (Photo credit: Jamie Squire /Allsport)
North Dakota legalized medical cannabis in November 2016. The law includes PTSD as a condition that qualifies for medical cannabis. Medical cannabis is expected to be available for qualifying patients within a year. (Photo credit: Jasperdo/Flickr)
Ohio legalized medical marijuana for qualifying patients in September 2016, but dispensaries aren’t expected to open for at least a year. PTSD is among 20 or so conditions approved for medical cannabis treatment. Until dispensaries open and the program is up and running, qualifying patients with a doctor’s note have an “affirmative defense” against prosecution for marijuana possession and paraphernalia possession that would be legal under the new law. (Image credit: Alex Milan Tracy/Demotix/Corbis)
Oregon legalized medical marijuana for qualifying patients in 1998. PTSD was added as an approved condition in 2013. Patients with PTSD (or other qualifying conditions) and a recommendation for medical marijuana from an attending physician may apply for a medical cannabis card. (Photo credit: Emily Gray Brosious/Exrtract)
Pennsylvania legalized medical marijuana for qualifying patients in 2016. The program is expected to take 18 to 24 months to implement. Once the program is operational, PTSD patients (or patients with other qualifying conditions) with a physician’s certification will be able to access medical cannabis at designated state dispensaries. (Photo credits: William Thomas Cain/Getty Images; Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Washington legalized medical marijuana for qualifying patients in 1998. PTSD was approved as a qualifying condition in 2016. Patients with PTSD (or other qualifying conditions) that have a medical marijuana authorization from a healthcare provider can bring their authorization form to a medically endorsed marijuana store, where staff will enter the authorization care into a database to create a recognition card. (Photo credit: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Washington, D.C. legalized medical cannabis in 2010. The law does not specify PTSD as a qualifying condition, but doctors have broad discretion to recommend medical cannabis for patients with chronic, debilitating conditions that may benefit from cannabis treatment, including PTSD. Qualifying patients with a doctor's recommendation must register for a medical ID card before obtaining medical cannabis. (Photo credit: Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)
Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images
Gallery source links: Arizona State Legislature, Ballotpedia , Leafly, California NORML, Connecticut Department of Consumer Protections, Delaware Health and Social Services, Ballotpedia , CBS Miami, Hawaii Department of Health, Illinois Department of Public Health, Maine Division of Public Health Services, Integr8 Health (Maine MMJ Evaluations), Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission, Massachusetts Health and Human Services, Massachusetts Marijuana Doctors, Detroit Free Press, MLive, ProCon.org, Minnesota Department of Public Health, , Ballotpedia , New Jersey Marijuana Doctors New Mexico Department of Health, Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health, Ballotpedia, Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program, Cleveland.com, The Ohio Legislature, Oregon Health Authority, PA.GOV, The General Assembly of Pennsylvania, Washington State Department of Health, Marijuana Business Daily, Rhode Island Department of Public Health, Marijuana Policy Project, D.C. Department of Health