A new bill being drafted in the House of Representatives will make access to medical marijuana easier for veterans. The Veterans Equal Access Act, cosponsored by representatives Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Earl Blumenaur (D-OR), would make it easier for veterans to obtain medical marijuana in states where it is legal.
According to Military Times, the bill would allow Veterans Affairs Department doctors, and other health care providers, to complete the paperwork necessary for veterans to get medical marijuana. Current Veterans’ Administration rules prohibit doctors from writing medical marijuana prescriptions.
Congressman Rohrabacher finds it unacceptable that VA doctors are not allowed by federal law to select treatment options from the full range of treatments that are available to them.
“Our antiquated drug laws must catch up with the real suffering of so many of our veterans. This is now a moral cause and a matter of supreme urgency.”
The Washington Post explains that because VA doctors and other employees work for the federal government, they must comply with federal law on marijuana. The federal government classifies marijuana as a “Schedule I” drug, the same as hard drugs such as heroin and cocaine. Because Schedule I drugs are considered to have limited or no medical uses, medical marijuana is banned under federal law. This ban also prohibits federal employees from completing the paperwork necessary to enroll veterans in state medical marijuana programs.
Congressman Blumenauer says that around 20 percent of veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and/or depression. The Washington Post report says that in addition to that number, there is around one million veterans who receive opioids to treat painful conditions. A recent study found that about half of that number use opioids for longer than 90 days. A second study found that VA patients die from opioid overdoses at a rate that is double the national average.
The Military Times says that some studies have found that troops with physical pain and mental health issues often abuse opiates. Blumenauer and Rohrabacher believe that giving veterans easier access to medical marijuana may help prevent them from becoming addicted to the far more dangerous opioid pain killers.
Congressman Blumenauer observed in a statement, “In states where patients can legally access medical marijuana for painful conditions, often as a less-addictive alternative, the hands of VA physicians should not be tied.”
Twenty-three states have medical marijuana laws. As reported in the Inquisitr, medical marijuana has been used for a long time to treat a variety of health conditions. With medical marijuana, and marijuana use in general, becoming more accepted, at least some members of congress think it is time to change the law to give veterans more access to the drug.
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