Federal lawmakers will soon gather on Capitol Hill to discuss the issue of allowing veterans to have the same access to medical marijuana as their civilian counterparts. The United States House of Representatives is scheduled to debate a number of issues pertaining to veteran’s affairs later this week, including a recent proposal by Congressman Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, which would enable military veterans suffering from debilitating mental and physical conditions to use medical marijuana in states where it has been made legal.
Although the federal government prevents physicians employed with the Veterans Administration from even discussing marijuana as a potential treatment option for their patients, Blumenauer has drafted a simple amendment that would prevent the agency from using its funding to impose this prohibitionary stance. The objective of this modest policy adjustment is to simply prohibit the VA’s budget from being used to prevent veterans from taking advantage of their state’s medical marijuana program.
Fortunately, many legislative forces have shifted their attitude in regards to the use of medical marijuana, especially when it comes to treating the men and women who have suffered the wrath of a serious health issue as a result of serving the United States at a time of war. Congressman Blumenauer, along with Representatives Tom Reed of New York, Sam Farr of California and Dana Rohrabacher, also of California, believe the federal government owes it to those soldiers who have found themselves scarred while defending our nation an opportunity for a better quality of life through the medicinal benefits of cannabis.
“It is unacceptable for our wounded warriors to be forced out of the VA system to simply seek a recommendation on whether or not medical marijuana is a good treatment option,” Blumenauer said in a statement. “We should not be preventing access to medicine that can help them deal with these injuries to survive and thrive. I encourage my colleagues to show compassion to our veterans and pass this amendment.”
Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have passed laws legalizing medical marijuana for patients afflicted with debilitating health problems. Some of the latest statistics indicate that somewhere around 1 million patients across the United States are now using the herb to treat a variety of conditions ranging from glaucoma to seizure disorders. Sadly, only nine states permit physicians from recommending cannabis to patients tormented by post traumatic stress disorder, which is perhaps the most common malady of mental health endure by veterans emerging from the trenches of combat.
However, when Congressman Blumenauer introduced the Veterans Equal Access Act earlier this year, one of his goals was to remedy the conundrum surrounding state approved “qualified conditions” by passing legislation that would allow physicians with the Veterans Administration to determine whether cannabis was an appropriate treatment option for the patients in their care. In turn, regardless of what a particular state dictated to be a condition worthy of consideration under their medical marijuana laws, a VA doctor would have the ultimate authority to recommend cannabis for any ailment they see fit.
The passing of this measure, which lawmakers and drug policy activists hope will be more likely with the advent of the latest amendment, would provide veterans living in legal states access to medical marijuana as long as their VA physician recommends it as part of their treatment plan.
Congress is expected to debate Blumenauer’s proposal in the next few days, which is not a moment too soon for veterans struggling to live productive lives. According to Americans for Safe Access, more than 20 veterans commit suicide every day, most of which are dealing with PTSD and severe depression, while as many as 25 million are being forced to rely on highly addictive pharmaceuticals to combat the perils of chronic pain.
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