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VA Docs Prohibited From Recommending Medical Marijuana to Returning Vets

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
The U.S. Veterans Administration (VA) recently adopted a policy prohibiting VA physicians from recommending medical marijuana to their patients, even if marijuana is the safest and most effective medicine to treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other service-related conditions.

No doubt the policy stems, in part, from the VA's efforts to address the serious problem of drug abuse among returning veterans. Veterans' advocates and organizations like the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) certainly share this concern; last fall, DPA issued a report calling for immediate policy changes to improve veterans' substance abuse and mental health treatment.

Yet seen from the larger perspective of helping veterans adjust to civilian life, the VA's stance on medical marijuana is counterproductive and harmful. The ban means that--despite their service to our country--veterans who reside in the 14 states that have legalized medical marijuana are denied the same rights as every other resident of these states.

At minimum, the VA should be actively studying whether cannabis and its unique chemical ingredients can be used to reduce post-combat trauma without contributing to drug dependency. Ample research and anecdote strongly suggest this is the case.

Patient reports and published research indicate that marijuana can be a highly effective treatment for PTSD, a condition afflicting nearly one in five veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And overwhelming scientific evidence has already proven marijuana's safety and efficacy for treating conditions like chronic pain, which affects many combat-injured veterans.

Marijuana, moreover, carries none of the risks associated with prescription drugs used to treat PTSD, which have been implicated in the tragic overdose deaths of several current conflict veterans.

"I've run the gamut of different medications at the VA, and basically I was at my limit," said decorated U.S. Army veteran Paul Culkin, a New Mexico medical marijuana patient who suffers from PTSD after serving in Iraq. "The medications were turning me into a zombie...medical cannabis made me a father and a husband again. It's been a blessing."

Disappointingly, however, it seems the VA's policy is not just about preventing substance abuse among veterans. The VA claims the ban is primarily a response to threats from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to prosecute VA doctors for recommending medical marijuana, or for completing forms necessary for their patients to enroll in a state medical marijuana program--even though to do so would not constitute a criminal offense. Civilian doctors recommending marijuana to their patients have not been arrested or threatened with arrest.

Veterans and advocates are now urging the VA to stand up to the DEA's harassment of veterans and remove the apparent gag order on its doctors. Such advocates include Montel Williams, talk show host, medical marijuana patient, and veteran of the United States Marines Corps and Navy, who said:

"I find it egregiously offensive that we can send our children off to die for our freedom, and then so callously turn our backs on their freedom when they return home. Research has proven the efficacy of medicinal marijuana in the treatment of PTSD. How dare we turn our backs on those who did not hesitate to put themselves in harms way to support and defend our Constitution?"

As a result of the ban, veterans who would benefit from medical marijuana are forced to obtain medical advice about it from private doctors outside the VA system--at their own expense.

Of course, veterans in states without medical marijuana laws fare far worse. These veterans risk arrest for using marijuana to treat their combat injuries, joining the more than 800,000 Americans arrested annually for marijuana offenses. DPA's report advocates for sensible policies to prevent the arrest and incarceration of veterans. Protecting veterans who use marijuana is an obvious starting point. In fact, other NATO countries not only allow their veterans to use medical marijuana, but actually reimburse them for it. Sadly, it appears U.S. troops will not come home to as enlightened or compassionate a country.

Our veterans must not be treated like lesser-citizens. They deserve to receive medical advice from their VA doctors, not the DEA. They deserve, above all, the freedom to choose the safest and most effective treatment for their conditions--whatever that treatment might be. Paul Culkin said it best: "It would be inconceivable to withhold weapons, equipment or training from our troops on the ground. Why are we denied access to a medication that might provide relief to us and our families when we come home?"

Bob Kerrey is President of the New School in New York City and former Senator from Nebraska. Jason Flom is on the Board of Directors of the Drug Policy Alliance and President of Lava Records.

NewsHawk: User: 420 MAGAZINE
Source: huffingtonpost.com
Author: Bob Kerrey and Jason Flom
Copyright: 2010 HuffingtonPost.com, Inc.
Contact: Contact us
Website: Bob Kerrey: VA Docs Prohibited From Recommending Medical Marijuana to Returning Vets


New Member
Yeah. We certainly wouldn't want to calm soldiers down after a year of killing in the fields. What could we possibly be thinking.

Jack DaRipper

New Member
As a combat veteran with two tours to the sandbox, a disabled veteran, and who resides in a state that hasnt allowed MMJ I can attest to this story. I tried to tell my head doctor that I use mj for medical reason since the meds they had me on, made me feel worse. I was unable to operate as a human but as a zombie. I just went with the flow, didnt have any feelings bad or good..just glided through or so it felt. But thats not good because as in having no feelings, when I get mad; I would flip. So I said F it and started smoking again and wow, I was normal compared to what I was feeling. I still get mad, but im not numb to the world or ppl's feelings. Im more or less a normal everyday joe with a slight limp, and a severe case of CRS (cant remember sh!t)..I actually am able to sit in rooms with a group of ppl and not start freakin out as bad, and I still have to sit on the outside and all that, but still...But most importantly, I was able to sleep again without having crazy ass nightmares off those meds and regained my appetite which again on the meds I lost. I tried to tell my doctor that, and I even told him that I quit drinking, I literally have like a few beers a month not to exceed a 6pack. so alchol isnt a factor. And my VA doctor puts me down as a substance abuser, and therefore I cant get any pain pills for my two blown out knees, achilles', and left foot, and nothing on the shelves do it, and vitamin-m aka motrin 500mg's (they feed them too ya like crazy in the military for aches and pains) doesnt even touch it anymore, I tried asking for some percasets or vicodain (sp) (which I was on in the military and was fine -I dont abuse pills!!-) and I cant get them because they are a controlled substance yadda yadda yadda...bottom line its BS, What they give me doesnt work, so I fix it myself, and they basically refuse to help me afterwards, even with the means and ways to do so..it would be as simple as a script of pain killers for my knees, and thats it...I self medicate, Its half way legal here in this state of North Carolina anyways..but our gov is a twofaced liar who even said she would legalize it medically, and when she got into office, she made it a point that she is a baptist and therefore she would never sign into law something such as MMJ...sigh....sorry, end rant...
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