William Ulwelling, the mental health practitioner who initiated a petition that seeks to change the state’s Medical Cannabis Program (MCP), misrepresented himself as a UNM professor, according to a UNM spokesman.
In a proposal dated July 29, Ulwelling said that post-traumatic stress disorder should be removed from the MCP because “there is no scientific evidence that marijuana helps treat PTSD.” He also said that prescribing the drug to patients only increases their risk of substance abuse.
UNM Hospital spokesman Billy Sparks said Ulwelling was a volunteer assistant professor at UNM only until December 2007, when his contract was terminated. He said Ulwelling has not been affiliated with UNM since.
According to Sparks, Ulwelling did not consult patients during his employment at UNM, and he only helped to train people. He said Ulwelling’s proposal does not reflect UNM’s stance on the issue.
The proposal made headlines last week when the Santa Fe Reporter published a copy of a letter from Ulwelling addressed to the MCP Medical Advisory Board, in which he stated he would formally petition the ineligibility of PTSD for the MCP in the next board hearing on Oct. 17.
Bryan Krumm, the nurse practitioner who in a letter to Ulwelling threatened to file a complaint against the psychiatrist, said Ulwelling’s “fraudulent claims” were expected.
“Given the fact that he lies about the dangers of cannabis, I am not surprised,” he said.
Krumm said that when he found out about Ulwelling’s plan to petition, he and another Santa Fe doctor, George Greer, immediately provided Ulwelling with written evidence that cannabis helps treat PTSD.
“Shortly after (knowing about his plans), we provided him with evidence, but he still filed with the DoH (Department of Health),” Krumm said. “In spite of having mental health practitioners talk to him, he has pursued to remove PTSD from the MCP. He’s placing thousands of patients at risk.”
He said Ulwelling refused to listen to their claims, and alleges that Ulwelling said “it is too late” to withdraw his petition.
Krumm said he gave Ulwelling research reports that demonstrate dramatic decreases in suicide rates of patients with PTSD in states with a medical marijuana program.
New Mexico is one of 17 states (accompanied by Washington D.C.) with an MCP. But according to the Santa Fe Reporter, it is one of only two states that include PTSD as a disease eligible for the MCP.
Contrary to Ulwelling’s claims that cannabis will encourage substance abuse in patients with PTSD, Krumm said his experiences with patients prove that cannabis is a helpful medication.
“There are risks of substance abuse with any medications, certainly,” he said. “But in my experience, it’s more efficacious than other medications.”
Krumm said in order to make MCP changes, Ulwelling’s petition would have to be approved by the MCP’s Medical Advisory Board. But he said that although the board does not approve the plan, the petition can still pass if it is approved by the secretary of health.
Krumm said he is sure the board will not pass the petition. He said the state of New Mexico approved the MCP despite the fact that medical research with marijuana is prohibited in New Mexico because officials are concerned with patients’ welfare.
“This law was put into place because of compassion,” he said.
But Krumm said he is worried that the secretary of health will veto the board’s decision, because the DoH has the power to deem the risks of substance abuse for cannabis “too great.”
Krumm said he will file a complaint against Ulwelling’s medical license if his petition is not withdrawn. He said Ulwelling should abandon his plans if he really cares about his patients’ wellness.
“He needs to look into his heart and try to find compassion,” he said. “He needs to pull this petition from the DoH.”
Ulwelling did not return calls from the Daily Lobo.