On the eve of Veterans Day, the Senate passed legislation that would for the first time allow Veterans Health Administration doctors to authorize medical marijuana use for patients. The Veterans Health Administration currently doesn’t allow its doctors to even discuss medical marijuana as a treatment option with their patients, even if they are in the state with medical marijuana laws. This has forced the veterans to turn elsewhere for help and guidance regarding the paperwork necessary to acquire the drug. The new legislation allows doctors to discuss medical cannabis as a treatment option for patients in 23 states and to recommend it as well.
March to the White House
On Veterans Day, veterans marched to the White House to lobby for medical marijuana as a treatment for war trauma. As part of the protest, the group of veterans threw thousands of empty prescription pill bottles onto the sidewalk, in an attempt to deliver the message of how ineffective the pharmaceutical drugs really are in treating their conditions. The veterans think they’re being unjustly denied of cannabis therapy. Sadly, a current veteran suicide rate is 22 per day, which is the reason why they ask for alternative treatment options. Being forced to use pharmaceutical drugs while they obviously don’t work for everyone could be thought of as illegal as well. It’s time for the Veterans Administration to recognize that there are alternative forms of treatment available, especially now when half of the country has some form of medical marijuana law up and running.
A step forward
State medical marijuana laws do vary to a great extent. Some allow only a tiny number of conditions to be treated with the drug, while others like California have famously relaxed and heavily unregulated guidelines. The Senate legislation won’t change the fact that marijuana is still illegal under the federal law, which is a huge obstacle in using marijuana as medicine and which also closes the door to greater legal research. “We see this victory as a step toward a peace treaty with the government we volunteered to defend with our lives and as a step toward restoring our First Amendment rights and dignity as citizens,” said T.J. Thompson, a disabled Navy veteran, in a statement circulated by the Drug Policy Alliance.
The Senate acts slowly
The Senate Appropriations Committee adopted the measure in May by a vote of 18-12, with four Republicans joining Democrats in favor. The larger spending bill to which it was attached – the one about funding veterans and military construction projects – passed the Senate without opposition Tuesday. It never ceases to amaze us how quickly these guys pass the bills that involve funding military projects. Apparently, the medical marijuana language of the bill must still survive a negotiated spending deal between the leaders of the Senate and the House of Representatives. Until marijuana becomes legal on the federal level, we will continue seeing obstructions to its reach to those who need it the most. Isn’t it time someone said it’s ridiculous to have marijuana in the same category as LSD and cocaine?