The recreational use of marijuana is now legal in four states, as well as several American cities, and medical marijuana is now legal in nearly half of the United States. Many of the veterans our office represents have told me over the years that they use marijuana to ease the symptoms of service-connected disabilities ranging from chronic back problems to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. However, the mere discussion of marijuana is still controversial regarding veterans, as the Department of Veterans Affairs – following federal law, which lists marijuana (along with heroin, LSD, mescaline, etc.) as a Schedule I drug – prohibits VA doctors from mentioning marijuana as a treatment option.
Last month, Congresswoman Dina Titus (D-Nevada) joined eight fellow House members in introducing a bill that would allow VA doctors to prescribe marijuana to veterans, at least in states that have legalized marijuana for medical use. According to the Las Vegas Sun, “Nevada law lists eight specific conditions residents can use medical marijuana for, including cancer and glaucoma. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder also is covered under the law after a veteran petitioned the state to include it.”
Bigger news, which was announced just this week, is a bi-partisan bill to end the federal prohibition of medical marijuana was introduced by the unlikely team of Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) and Cory Booker (D-New Jersey), along with Kirsten Gillibran (D-New York). The bill follows the Obama administration’s 2010 request that prosecutors not pursue medical marijuana sellers and the Department of Justice’s 2013 announcement that it would not argue with states that have chosen to decriminalize or outright legalize marijuana.
As many as 20 percent of veterans who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, an ailment for which medical marijuana is widely recognized as effective treatment. Do you think veterans suffering from service-connected disabilities such as PTSD, which often leads to unemployability, should have the legal right to be prescribed medical marijuana? Other diseases that veterans suffer from - including arthritis, Hepatitis C and cancer - benefit from cannabis treatment, too.
Our office will be monitoring the progress of both the congress and senate bills, as they both will have a great impact on whether veterans can legally access marijuana for medical use.