Colorado becomes first state to fund research to show benefits of medical marijuana

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DENVER -- Colorado became a pioneer in funding research that shows the benefits of medical marijuana Wednesday.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment approved more than $8 million to pay for several research projects.

The money to fund the medical research comes from application fees from medical marijuana patients. Some of them say using the money this way is nothing less than stealing. And now they're suing the Board of Health to stop them.

The Turner family comes before the board to ask for a life-changing vote. "My son has Crohn's disease. I'm sorry," cries Wendy Turner.

She and her family moved to Colorado from Illinois to get medicinal cannabis for their 14-year-old son Coltyn. And it worked. Just 8 months later, he was in remission.

"Our son has made a complete turnaround. A year ago he was in a wheelchair, unable to stand more than a few moments. He can climb mountains now," says Coltyn’s dad, Tom.

Now, they want the board  to approve funding for medical marijuana research to help others--like combat veteran Chris Latona, who deals with post-traumatic stress disorder.

"I need help today. I need help to get through tonight, so I can live through tomorrow and continue my healing," he says.

But others say, while they support research, they don't support using money from medical marijuana patients. "This is a grant that can come from private money. It does not have to come from us," says Phillip Barton, who is opposed to the funding.

"It is appalling. It is shameful and I will do everything as I promised," says funding opponent Kathleen Chippi. That includes suing the state to prevent the funding--on the grounds the money should only be spent to maintain the medical marijuana registry.

But that doesn't stop the board from siding unanimously with families like the Turners, and those who say today's decision will help end the suffering of so many.

"The rest of the country is coming here as refugees. It is up to us to provide the medicine through marijuana," says U.S. Air Force Veteran Greg Duran.

"We have no research like this yet in this country and Colorado is leading the way," says Vietnam veteran and Purple Heart recipient Tony Shaw.

The money will fund the following programs:

  • Two on PTSD
  • Pediatric epilepsy
  • Irritable bowel sydrome
  • Pain relief for children with brain tumors
  • Comparing cannabis versus oxycodone for pain relief

The  board also has enough money to fund another research program, which it will discuss in about in three months.

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