Medical marijuana may soon be allowed for veterans if a newly proposed bill allowing doctors to recommend marijuana for patients passes scrutiny, The Washington Post reports.
The bill, termed the Veterans Equal Access Act, has been forwarded jointly by Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher from California and Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer from Oregon, in an effort to provide veterans with an effective treatment for PTSD. This new legislation would allow VA doctors to make recommendations for medical marijuana where deemed appropriate. Approximately 1 in 5 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are thought to suffer from either PTSD or depression.
So far, 23 states have legalized medical marijuana, and now Blumenauer and Rohrabacher want to carry that precedent through to the VA.
“Post traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury are just as damaging and harmful as any injuries that are visible from the outside,” said Blumenauer in a statement. “Sometimes even more so because of the devastating effect they can have on a veteran’s family. We should be allowing these wounded warriors access to the medicine that will help them survive and thrive, including medical marijuana, not treating them like criminals and forcing them into the shadows. It’s shameful.” According to Blumenauer, veterans shouldn’t have to dive into the black market to find relief from injuries.
Rohrabacher and Blumenauer are fed up with existing treatments which prioritize the use of opiods, since they dramatically increase the risk of overdose and addiction.
For his part, the “beachgoing surfer” Rep. Rohrabacher has a long history advocating for medical marijuana, and in fact has argued that recreational marijuana should also be legalized. In 2012, he attempted to pass legislation which would protect users and providers throughout the U.S. from federal government prosecution. His amendment failed, but in May of this year, similar legislation passed through the House. On a more pragmatic note, Rep. Rohrabacher further told Republicans that even if they don’t support marijuana on a philosophical level, they should support marijuana simply because that’s where “the numbers are going.”
“The Veterans Health Administration has made it very clear that, as federal employees, they lack the free speech necessary to write the recommendations for Veterans to comply with state programs,” said Michael Krawitz, executive director of Veterans For Medical Cannabis Access. “This legislation is needed to correct that legal situation and repair this VA doctor patient relationship.”
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