In moments of national conflict, perhaps nothing can be more devastating to a soldier than to be left behind. Sadly, as we approach the time of year to honor those who have faithfully served our country, this is the case for veterans suffering from chronic pain, PTSD, traumatic brain injuries, phantom limb syndrome, cancer, depression, and a host of other medical conditions. Veterans have been left behind, and their medical providers have no ability to advocate for them. Over one-half of our national population now lives a state that permit marijuana as medicine. Ballot initiatives added four more on Election Day. Veterans are denied this service because the federal government continues to classify marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug with “high abuse potential, no medical use.”
By Rev. Alexander E. Sharp Clergy for a New Drug Policy has rallied faith leaders on behalf of medical marijuana in Pennsylvania, as well as taxation and regulation in Vermont. We believe that success is possible soon in both states.
This month, the Senate approved a funding bill authorizing Veterans’ Affairs healthcare providers to discuss medical marijuana as a treatment option for veterans seeking care. This bill marks a step forward in the provision of compassionate care for American servicemen and women. Research has suggested that medical marijuana can help ease suffering related to post-traumatic stress and brain injuries, which veterans often experience. Yet current federal law prohibits VA doctors from even discussing medical marijuana with their patients. At present, 23 states have legalized marijuana for medical use. In these states, veterans cannot receive or even discuss medical marijuana in VA healthcare centers.
By Rev. Alexander E. Sharp In spring 2013, shortly before medical marijuana legislation passed in Illinois, I called a suburban police chief who was a formidable opponent of the bill. He had become a national hero in the Reagan years for his service to our country. We had a good conversation. But as I started to push for his support, he muttered, with guttural defiance, “Marijuana is not medicine. It’s just a weed.” The chief cannot say this anymore. If he does, he will now be taking on the American Medical Association. The June 23 issue of the AMA Journal contains two major articles that survey much of the existing research on the effectiveness of cannabis as medicine. The lead piece concludes, “There was moderate evidence to support the use of cannabinoids for the treatment of chronic pain and spasticity.” (p 2474) Cautious perhaps, but for the AMA, this is akin to Justice Scalia supporting Obamacare.
Through this Drug Policy Alliance online form, tell your member of Congress to support the Veterans Equal Access Act and finally allow VA doctors to recommend medical marijuana to veterans in the states where it’s legal. To learn more about this issue, visit our Take Action page on Medical Marijuana.