War on weed: Veterans’ access to medical marijuana blocked by Republicans

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Veterans hoping to use medical marijuana to treat post-traumatic stress disorder have had their hopes extinguished after Republicans shot down the Veterans Equal Access amendment to allow doctors to discuss medicinal cannabis with patients.

Republicans on the House Rules Committee rejected the ‘Veterans Equal Access’ amendment this week that would allow Veterans Affairs (VA) doctors to discuss medical marijuana treatment with veterans in states where it is legal.

VT editors Gene and Gordie discussing this and other issues

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), who sponsored the amendment said he was “bitterly disappointed” veterans had been failed, despite the amendment receiving bipartisan support from 9 Democrat and 9 Republican co-sponsors.

The lawmakers wouldn’t let the amendment be included in the House’s proposed VA funding bill for next year, meaning it won’t even be up for debate on the House floor.

While medical marijuana is legal in 29 states, it remains illegal on a federal level, so VA doctors are prevented from discussing it with patients.

The amendment would have allowed VA doctors to recommend and place patients on state medical marijuana programs.

“We would be far better off if our veterans had access to medical marijuana and less reliance on opioids, which is literally killing them,” Blumenauer told Stars and Stripes.

“Under this amendment, marijuana would not be dispensed by the VA or consumed on federal property — it simply ends the current gag rule that says doctors can’t talk to their patients about it, even if they think it’s appropriate.”

Veterans and support groups in the US have long pushed for access to marijuana, particularly for treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as further research into its effects.


According to VA statistics, between 11 and 20 percent of veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars live with PTSD.

For context, the VA says 30 percent of all Vietnam vets and 12 percent of Gulf War vets battle the disorder each year.

The American Legion, a two million-strong conservative veterans group, called for a reduction in marijuana restrictions last year and, in May, called on President Donald Trump to allow marijuana research for veterans.

“We were hearing these compelling stories from veterans about how cannabis has made their lives better,” spokesman Joseph Plenzler said.

“They were able to use it to get off a whole cocktail of drugs prescribed by VA doctors, that it is helping with night terrors, or giving them relief from chronic pain.”

The VA has come under fire for its failure to adequately treat returning soldiers. Prescription drug abuse rates are higher among vets than the general public, with opioid pain medications proving to be the most problematic.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), pain relief prescriptions by doctors in the military increased four-fold from 2001 and 2009.

“Those with multiple deployments and combat exposure are at greatest risk of developing substance use problems,” the NIDA found, citing “the stresses of deployment during wartime and the unique culture of the military.”

“We need treatment that works,” Nick Etten of the Veterans Cannabis Project said in May. “We need treatment that is not destructive. The VA has been throwing opiates at veterans for almost every condition for the last 15 years. You are looking at a system that has made a problem worse the way they have approached treatment.”

Blumenauer introduced a similar amendment last year, which passed both the House (233-189) and the Senate (89-8). However, it was part of a larger appropriations bill that didn’t make the final cut after negotiations.

“This is a subject that has gained a great deal more attention and momentum,” Blumenauer told McClatchy. “More people recognize that the VA has really failed our veterans when it has come to pain management, opioids and opioid dependency.”

There is some hope that the amendment will be approved, as the Senate’s Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill contains a similar amendment.

However, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is staunchly against marijuana and penned a letter in May asking Congressional leaders to undo federal medical-marijuana protections.


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8 COMMENTS

  1. I am a Desert Storm veteran with PTSD from a sexual trauma that happened in the military. I can assure you that cannabis works for the nightmares that I was experiencing and for the day Mares also the flashbacks. Cannabis has helped me stop using Prozac. I am not a recreational user I am a medicational user

  2. Unfortunately veterans are treated with the same dignity as used toilet paper, just another piece of expendable equipment. The old men send the young and impressionable warriors off to fight battle they will not let them win and than abandon them.
    A few dollars from a pharmacutical company is worth more than a fallen soldier.

  3. Everyone knows, that if you are contracting on a base of almost any kind, you leave with goodies. One of my favorite “gifts” was a 360 foot piece of 3/4″ Hemp rope. Great stuff.

  4. [“According to VA statistics, between 11 and 20 percent of veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars live with PTSD.”]

    So….what about all those Afghani and Iraqi orphans and families of the MURDERED by US ‘veterans’ suppose to take for their pain and loss? How about those reparations? Am I suppose to feel sorry for these so called mercenaries who voluntarily sign up to kill innocent civilians of a sovereign nation? Maybe you should look to the CIA and get free opium from the Afghani fields they occupy. Or…maybe it would be easier to just go to one of the 29 US states to get what you weed. wtf? Murder Inc needs comfort?…How about APOLOGIZING FOR DESTROYING SOVEREIGN NATIONS, destroying families murdering them in cold blood, torturing them in dungeons. Got news…there is no medication for the conscience…only remorse. DON’T SIGN UP so you won’t have to follow immoral orders and thus receive immoral reaping. My pity is with the uncountable nations and their people you have wronged and have left destitute, fatherless, motherless, childless and homeless.

    • The ones that live with PTSD are the ones that have a conscience. They can’t get over the revulsion of what they have witnessed or heard first-hand. Their conflict is that they have to reconcile it with the code of brotherhood of their buddies. Some eventually snap, then discharge a load in the back of child-killing psychopathic snipers

  5. The time to lend any credence to politicians in regard to veterans is expired. The ones who applaud the loudest, do the least. The response should be a bill to make it illegal for recruiters to speak to anyone under 21, because if they can’t be trusted to have a beer, they shouldn’t have a tank.

  6. Every current active member of our military must go on strike today and anyone considering joining up must refuse to join today and forever until some drastic changes are made in our totally corrupt military and corrupt congress. Why throw your life away in the outlaw military which is running around the world killing innocent children and civilians? If everyone would cooperate in this effort you would be doing the country a much greater service than if you join this corrupt military cesspool in America. This is the most effective way to get the attention of these corrupt fools running the country.

  7. This is sad, in my opinion. They could at least try it. What’s the worst that could happen if it didn’t work? As a marijuana user myself, I can tell you, nothing will happen if it doesn’t work. It’s certainly not going to ruin someone’s life, like opioids. I know too many people who got prescribed opioids for basic pain relief and now they’re injecting anything that is opiate based, just to remain on an even keel. Marijuana has the potential to treat such a wide range of symptoms and diseases, that the pharmaceutical industry would lose billions.

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