blommin photo veterans.jpg

Proposed Senate Bill Would Allow Medical Marijuana For Military Veterans

 By Roger Moleskin

September 9th 2018 photo/istock/Lumineux_Images

The catastrophic effects of PTSD experienced by returning veterans has been one of premier issues driving the cannabis reforms seen in congress lately. According to the Herald-Tribune report, “Warriors Rise Up”, it is estimated that around 20 veterans per day commit suicide due to PTSD and complications from opioid abuse. Now,  a bill sponsored by Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) aims to alleviate their pain with medical marijuana.

 “Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act” would permit physicians with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to issue medical marijuana licenses to veterans in need as long as their uses is in line with the marijuana laws of the state they’re in. In the bill’s wording, veterans can "use, possess, or transport medical marijuana in accordance with the laws of the State in which the use, possession, or transport occurs."

In addition to issuing licenses, the bill requires the "the effects of medical marijuana on veterans in pain" and "the relationship between treatment programs involving medical marijuana that are approved by States, the access of veterans to such programs, and a reduction in opioid abuse among veterans." The bill allots $15 million for the research.

What’s significant about this is not just providing the aid these veterans desperately need, but also members of congress acknowledging the medical benefits of marijuana. By admitting the CBD oils and compounds as less harmful than opioids and will benefit veterans, the legalization movement has another bill, should it be approved, that adds to the growing case to declassify cannabis as a schedule 1 drug.

Justin Strekal, political director for NORML, said "It is unconscionable that these brave individuals who protect our nation's freedoms would be treated as criminals when they return home just for treating their medical ailments with a safe and effective option."

The move comes after attempted stonewalling by Dr. Lawrence Meyer of the VA during an Appropriations subcommittee hearing, where said that the VA cannot prescribe medical marijuana to veterans because of federal law. Senator Schatz pointed out that that is not true, and that there is nothing stopping the VA from doing so as long as it is obeys the marijuana laws in the state the veteran lives. The only thing truly standing in the way was the VA’s own policy, which was and perhaps still is outdated.

 It should be noted that the language Dr. Meyer used at the hearing matters. He said the VA can’t prescribe, which is true, but they can recommended. In fact, no doctor is allowed to prescribe marijuana anywhere in the U.S., that’s why they recommend - so they can get medication to the patient without breaking any laws. Dr Meyer certainly knows this, so it is clear that he was feigning ignorance in order to keep the VA anti-marijuana stance in tact.

 Fortunately, these tactics don’t seem to be working anymore. It is a direct result of science and legalization advocacy that has changed the nation’s conscience on cannabis. Those things are what gave the voices of veterans, cancer patients, addicts, and many others a platform to share their experience with marijuana and show that the federal ban has always been nothing but bad politics.

Marijuana is a serious political issue in Florida today. Although both of the state’s Senators and the Governor are all anti legalization, 71 percent of Floridians voted for medical use in the 2016 referendum.