By Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel
Along with family picnics and public concerts, as a country we wear poppies and decorate the graves of the fallen on the last Monday in May to honor our soldiers who have died while serving in the military. It is a holiday to remember their great sacrifices to protect our country, our citizens, and our way of life.
As we pause to celebrate Memorial Day this year, it also gives us an occasion to consider the sacrifices made by all those who have served, including the tens of thousands of veterans living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other emotional problems resulting from their service to our country.
While additional placebo-controlled research is needed to reconfirm the benefits of medical marijuana in reducing PTSD symptoms, existing research, along with anecdotal accounts from large numbers of PTSD sufferers, is sufficient today to justify its recommendation by physicians. Many combat veterans suffering from PTSD rely on cannabis to control their anger, nightmares and sometimes-violent rage.
Currently, those physicians affiliated with the US Department of Veterans Affairs may not legally recommend the use of medical marijuana to those veterans who could benefit from it use, even in states that have legalized the medical use. But that finally appears to be changing.
Offered as an amendment to a veterans affairs and military construction bill, a provision to expand medical marijuana coverage to US veterans was approved this week by the Senate Appropriations Committee, assuring it will be included in the version of the bill that will be sent shortly to the full senate for consideration. A similar amendment to a House military appropriations bill recently failed by only three votes on the floor of the House (210-213), setting up the need for a reconciliation process between the House and Senate versions of the appropriations bill, and the likelihood of the amendment being included in the final version of the bill approved by Congress.
While this most recent progress in Congress to approve the medical use of marijuana as a treatment option for VA physicians treating veterans is promising, it is but one small step in a longer process that must continue forward before marijuana is recognized under federal law as a valuable therapeutic agent for many conditions and illnesses.
But on this Memorial Day 2015, let’s honor our military men and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice, as well as those surviving veterans who have served their country with distinction, by committing ourselves to assuring that all Americans, and especially our veterans, have access to whatever therapies treat their symptoms and conditions most effectively and help them heal, including the option of medical marijuana; and by removing the remaining governmental obstacles that undermine this noble goal and interfere with the physician-patient relationship.