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Congress Finally Approves Medical Marijuana for Veterans

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Veterans struggling to gain access to medical marijuana caught a major break last week at the hands of Congress.

On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate put their seal of approval on an amendment that would prevent the Department of Veterans Affairs from dipping into the federal budget to stop Uncle Sam’s doctors from providing patients with recommendations to use medical marijuana.

This is the first time in American history that both chambers have seen eye to eye on an amendment of this kind—a move that stands to eliminate restrictions that have kept the men and women of the United States military from having legal access to a safer alternative to dangerous prescription drugs.

“The death rate from opioids among VA health care is nearly double the national average,” Representative Earl Blumenauer, who introduced the House amendment, said prior to the vote. “From what I hear from veterans is that medical marijuana has helped them deal with pain and PTSD, particularly as an alternative to opioids.”

Although cannabis advocates felt confident the amendment would make its way through the Senate once again this year, there was some concern that the House would continue to reject the measure. For the past two years, the lower chamber has prevented the amendment from going the distance—stomping it out by narrow margins. But, after some debate, House lawmakers voted 233-to-189 in favor of allowing the amendment to move forward under a larger Military Appropriations Bill.

As expected, the Senate did not waste any time supporting the amendment. Although some pot advocates argued a positive outcome was not a sure thing, by Thursday afternoon, lawmakers in the upper chamber voted 89-to-8 in favor of allowing VA doctors the ability to discuss medical marijuana as a potential treatment option.

Both chambers of Congress will now head to the negotiation table in order to reach an agreement on a solitary amendment that can be tucked inside the 2017 Military Construction Appropriations Bill. Since both the House and the Senate have approved the amendment, there is a better-than-average chance that it will be included in the final 2017 Fiscal Year budget that is slated to be signed by President Obama at the end of the year.

National marijuana advocacy groups applauded Congress for finally taking the appropriate steps to tear down the barriers that have prevented veterans all over the nation from using medical marijuana in states where it is legal.

“Prohibiting VA doctors from recommending medical marijuana does nothing to help our veterans,” Robert Capecchi, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, told HIGH TIMES in an emailed statement. “Current VA policy is preventing physicians from thoroughly monitoring patients’ medication decisions and engaging in frank conversations about available treatment options. It dramatically undermines the doctor-patient relationship.”

“This measure removes unnecessary barriers to medical marijuana access for the men and women who have volunteered to serve in our armed forces,” Capecchi continued. “It will save veterans time and money, and it will allow them to have more open and honest discussions with their primary care providers.”

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Daniel Rodriguez

    July 26, 2016 at 3:17 pm

    So, how soon will the law be enacted? it sounds like not until next year. What about the states that already have MMJ laws, will blessing of Congress cause changes to take place any faster? Don’t forget, the opposite of pro is con, and the opposite of progress is congress. Think about it…

  2. Avatar

    Spokane Veteran

    July 28, 2016 at 1:00 am

    Don’t believe the hype. Veterans have always been able to discuss cannabis with their doctors. Most VA Docs tow the federal company line & just say no by playing the “Unsafe” card (but don’t need to prove it). If a vet is lucky enough to get a 420 Doc, they will never document it so good luck when you get a new anti doc who checks our pee.

  3. Avatar

    Karen Brown

    July 31, 2016 at 5:35 pm

    I always tell therapist and primary doctor that cannabis allows me to finally sleep without nightmares and, I wake up refreshed and feeling great…. the trazedone makes me feel horrible the next day…..tired and moving in slow motion…and when it stopped working prescribed another med to take with it …plus prozac too….l eat an edible and less than an hour am asleep and, l have dreams …..real dreams.

  4. Avatar

    Tim Hasko

    September 4, 2016 at 9:22 am

    I’m a resident of Delaware and have been using medical cannabis since March of this year. I was able to come off of seven daily medications plus six more as needed.

    I’m 33 years old. I served roughly 2.5 years boots on ground in Iraq between 2003-2009. I left service in 2010. For the past six years, my life has done the things you described in your video. My world has become smaller and smaller and the only two things left in it are my beautiful wife of 12 years and my two year old daughter. They have one foot out the door as it may be the only option left if I don’t receive a miracle.

    Since using MM in March of this year, I was able to stop all of my behavioral health and pain medications. My usage rose instantly from the first time I used it to about 3-4 ounces a month, smoked, until SEVEN days ago. I received my Delaware state medical cannabis card.

    Yes, I have found ALL of my answers here. I have found complete freedom and relief of spending 15+ smoke sessions in the garage away from my family just to make it through the day. My question has to do with tolerance and what I should be doing to help myself the best.

    I have begun a routine at my “compassion center”. I will list my wakeup and bedtime routine. Both of these are solely within the first and last ten minutes of sleep. This accounts for ZERO usage the rest of the day which is pretty significant.

    When I wake up, I Immediately began suffering in every way. It’s a 10-10. The first ten minutes of my day, every day is met with panic and fear about not being about to get out of the bed. It’s been that way every day for the past six years. It especially started becoming difficult when we had our daughter, and the past two years, I have not been in her life the way I want to be.

    MORNING ROUTINE: Rick Simpson Oil x 2 dose (overall, half a grain of rice, orally), Jetfuel (1:1 ratio thc/cbd preloaded cartridge x I do two full vapes of that(the pen times out after 5 seconds), I smoke around two grams of the strongest sativa they have to wake up and function. I take 2ml of pure CBD oil, orally. I do an oil vape or two of dabbable thc distillate. If I’m in more pain then not, I’ll add ice hash to increase the potency of the leaf.

    BEDTIME ROUTINE: six – ten drops of indica tincture sublingually. 1.5 grams of their most potent indica, I mainly always add the ice hash to the water pipe bowls at night time. I do the dab pen with distillate and the “jet fuel” pen (high cbd strain). I also take RSO at night, it was added to help reduce that “ICK” and pain immediately in the AM. I now have a good hour in the morning before I need to medicate.

    The freedom I have this week is incredible, the way I’ve been there for my daughter and wife this week have been immeasurable. My state program is in its infancy. I JUST got my card. I cannot purchase any leaf over a gram at a time, they have capacity to serve 900 patients, they have 1700 cardholders and more each day. It’s the only one in the state right now, for the past year and will still be the only one for a time to come. The laws are moving slow. I cannot grow.

    I cannot afford more than a weeks worth of medicine a month. I cannot afford the pricetag of $1200/month of cannabis to return me to my former glory. I’m not joking. The government and taxpayers were paying $2300/month in pills and procedures for the last six years, now I have found the ONLY thing, that has ever worked. And….it’s not within my grasp….

    HOW do i do this, how do I make it last longer. WHY is my tolerance so high? Is this normal? What is it called? I have returned to a level of functioning superior even to when I was self medicating with my card. I feel like I’m twenty years old. My skin condition has evaporated, really bad chronic psoriasis and undiagnosed stuff. My skin looks and feels like I’m twenty. I have NO pain most of the day. IN any way. Emotional and physical. My mood is stable and relaxed, I’m not hypervigilant. I have been able to TRULY relax and find peace within myself after years of CBT/CPT, EMDR, Prolonged Exposure, Mindfulness, Inpatient programs, etc etc

    I have been and done MORE for my daughter and wife in the past week than the rest of 2016. Being present and being part of the family are two things most people take for granted. I’ve spent the last SIX years in bed. Unable to move, paralyzed with fear, anxiety and emotions too strong to handle. This past week, I’ve taken my daughter bike riding twice, we rode our riding mower around the neighborhood almost every night after dinner this week, I’ve been up in the AM on my own before even my wife, I’ve gotten full eight hours of sleep, I feel AMAZING. In three days, I’ll run out of most of my medicine, and then each day after that probably I’ll run out of something else. I have no more money to spend until next month. It’s only the first week. I have JUST found a MIRACLE, and it will slip away faster than i found it…..PLEASE HELP ME!

    To speak on others concerns, I was open and honest with my VA Psychiatrist. His stance is with the company. He cannot and will not discuss MM options with me. SO it finally took me six years as someone who suffers so severely to break the cycle and look outside the VA for help. For the first time. He is monitoring me while I continue to live medication free (VA medication free) I need to find options to pay for the only medicine that has ever helped. It’s great the VA is doing this, but this isn’t enough. They don’t and will not pay for it…..So….you give me the money to just make me spend ALL of it on my own health care that YOU promised to provide? Thanks….the money is coming straight out of my daughters mouth if I were to get any more for the month. So, I’ll be screwed in a couple days…..and so will my family. Old Tim is going to return. Suffering Tim, suicidal Tim, depressed Tim and in Pain Tim will just magically reappear in my place. I’m only trying to share my story with others while I’m still healthy enough today to do so. In a few days, I’ll be bedridden again, and my ability to advocate for myself will go away. Thanks for listening.

  5. Avatar

    Tom Brown

    September 16, 2016 at 5:08 pm

    Great news and a long time coming. Next step is to entirely decriminalize it at the Federal level and put DEA back in their cage.

  6. Avatar

    Gunny's World

    September 25, 2016 at 6:10 pm

    So those of us in non medical marijuana states will get different treatment by our federal VA than those lucky enough to live in a human state. This sounds ripe for a national referendum for all veterans to have access to medical marijuana not matter what state you live in.

  7. Avatar

    Colleen Hutmacher-Reuber

    October 8, 2016 at 10:55 am

    But if you work for the federal government and use it to help you battle stageIV cancer you will be fired. Not acceptable.

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