ptsd second amendment military veteran cannabis marijuana
Medical Marijuana Policy

U.S. Senate Committee Approves Veterans Medical Marijuana Amendment

ptsd second amendment military veteran cannabis marijuanaThere has been a gag order in place that bars Veterans Administration doctors from talking at all about medical marijuana with patients, even when the doctor knows that medical marijuana could help the veteran. A historic vote occurred in the United States Senate Appropriations Committee today, with 18 out of 30 Senators voting for an amendment that would lift the gag order. Below is a reaction from the Drug Policy Alliance, along with Tom Angell from the Marijuana Majority:

The Senate Appropriations Committee passed a bipartisan amendment today, 18 to 12, allowing Veterans Administration (VA) doctors to recommend medical marijuana to their patients in states where medical marijuana is legal. The vote is the first time the U.S. Senate has ever moved marijuana law reform legislation forward.

“Veterans in medical marijuana states should be treated the same as any other resident, and should be able to discuss marijuana with their doctor and use it if it’s medically necessary,” said Michael Collins, policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance. “They have served this country valiantly, so the least we can do is allow them to have full and open discussions with their doctors.”

The Veterans Equal Access Amendment was sponsored by Republican Senator Steve Daines of Montana and Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon. It was added in committee to a must-pass military construction and veterans affairs spending bill.  The bill is certain to pass on the Senate floor.

Currently, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) specifically prohibits its medical providers from completing forms brought by their patients seeking recommendations or opinions regarding participation in a state medical marijuana program. The Daines / Merkley amendment authorizes VA physicians and other health care providers to provide recommendations and opinions regarding the use of medical marijuana to veterans who live in medical marijuana states.

In 2002, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed in Conant v. Walters the right of physicians to recommend medical marijuana, regardless of its illegality under federal law, as well as the right of patients to receive accurate information. The Daines / Merkley amendment supports that first amendment right and restores a healthy doctor-patient relationship.

There are numerous federal healthcare programs besides the VA such as Medicaid, Medicare, and CHIP – but only the VA prohibits physicians from discussing and recommending medical marijuana to their patients. A Medicare patient may freely discuss medical marijuana use with her doctor, while a returning veteran is denied the same right.

Studies have shown that medical marijuana can help treat post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury, illnesses typically suffered by veterans. A 2014 study of people with PTSD showed a greater than 75% reduction in severity of symptoms when patients were using marijuana to treat their illness, compared to when they were not.

Last year the U.S. House voted five times in favor of letting states set their own marijuana policies. One of the amendments, prohibiting the Justice Department from spending any money in Fiscal Year 2015 undermining state medical marijuana laws, made it into the final spending bill signed into law by President Obama. Advocates of the veterans amendment believe it has a very good chance of making it into the final military construction spending bill that President Obama signs.

A legislative version of the Daines / Merkley amendment was included in groundbreaking Senate medical marijuana legislation introduced in March. The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States (CARERS) Act is the first-ever bill in the U.S. Senate to legalize marijuana for medical use and the most comprehensive medical marijuana bill ever introduced in Congress. The bill was introduced by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and generated enormous interest.

With the Appropriations Committee approving one element in the bill, supporters say it is time for the Senate Judiciary Committee to hold hearings on the full bill.

“The politics around marijuana have shifted in recent years, yet Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley hasn’t held a hearing on the issue,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “We will move the CARERS Act piece by piece if we have to but now is the time for the Senate to hold a hearing on the bill as a whole.”

***

And from Tom Angell:

“While we won five votes in a row on the House floor last year, this is the first time we’ve ever won a vote on a positive marijuana reform measure in the Senate. And with polls showing that a growing majority of voters supports ending prohibition, it’s safe to say it won’t be the last. Elected officials are finally starting to wake up to the fact that endorsing marijuana reform is good politics instead of the dangerous third-rail they’ve long viewed it as, and that means a lot more victories are on the way soon.”

  • Mike Johnson

    The VA took away my Vicodin as soon as they found out I had an mmj card. The doctor told me that cannabis was an illegal drug. When I pointed out that it was medically legal in Oregon, and that we had just legalized recreational cannabis, she replied that it was federally illegal, and she didn’t feel that it was safe for me to use Vicodin and an illegal drug. She canceled my pain pills without even a second thought to my pain. This is what drives me crazy! Politicians, cops and even doctors telling ME what is good for ME. I’m old enuff and smart enuff to know what works for me.

    • diddij

      I couldn’t agree more. I am a disabled veteran,who lives with chronic pain,severe fibromyalga,stenosis,and numerous other conditions that are slowly worsening. I unfortuneatly live 8n a state were cannabis is not legal, not even medically.however,I use cannabis because it helps me in so many ways,and once the VA found out,I too was cut off from my pain medications. They,need to make it available to all veterans no matter where there from. I am 54 years old and my quality of life is extremely important

    • I think the best thing you could do is find a new doctor.

      • DeeCee

        I’m a veteran in Georgia and go to the VA for all my medical needs. in October, my doctor at the VA refuses to discuss medical marijuana – even though this blog states the law was changed. I don’t know how to get a medical marijuana card because I don’t know any doctors that will request the card. Does anyone know if there is a list of doctors in Georgia who will recommend for the card – if all requirements are met? I can’t spend money on doctors who are ill informed and will automatically say no.

    • stephany

      Mike, ditto on the VA taking you off any narcotic no matter whether you need it or prescribed it by a doctor, I have been receiving the same treatment in pittsbugh va system, to the point they have denied me access to programs that teach coping skills for pain that don’t use drugs as a treatment, but because i vape cannabis i am a criminal and denied medical care(80% SC disabled USMC). The thing at gets me the most, is the flat out lying to your face in demonizing the use of cannabis, everything from the hoard of people seen everyday in the emergency rooms for pot overdoses that caused psychotic episodes, but have no proof in the drivel the are speaking. And above all , ” it is illegal” gee that never occurred to me ( I have a B.S. in Law). But, i am dismissed because i use DOPE!!!!!!!!!

      • MrBudWyzer

        stephany…I’m a Corpsman so I see thru most of their BS…hang in there…

    • MrBudWyzer

      Yeps me too Mike…had a similar situation ‘cept it was with Tramadol…been taking for 5 yrs…last yr they made it a schedule 4 opiate…cut the amt in half in Aug of 14….then this past April they decided to try an’ get me to sign the Pain Management program…an’ I said NO WAY…not going to give up my mj…I’m in NY…

    • jessie james

      Your trained to kill remind her of that and that you’ve got PTSD I would acquit if I was on jury

    • WildCherry Gary

      It’s your’re “Pain Punishment ” by the Feds for using Marijuana. The same thing happened to me ( please read my blog above). The ” War on Drugs ” continues.

  • ElleGee

    Until the rescheduling of cannabis, physicians are quite leery of recommending it. In doing so, they could have their DEA licenses suspended or revoked. Once cannabis is lower on the schedule, then physicians nationwide can begin to openly discuss cannabis use therapeutically with their patients. IMO cannabis should not be on the schedule at all.

    • Lawrence Goodwin

      I concur, ElleGee, with all of my heart. I hope you and yours are well. :)

      • ElleGee

        Thank you LG ;-)
        Peace be with you and yours as well.

  • PhDScientist

    This is a great day for America’s Veterans, and for America itself. God bless the members of Congress who voted for this.

  • Roguewerks

    Whom were the 12 Senators that voted against the measure?

    • jessie james

      Let’s find out who the ones that are against and start a campaign to get rid of them one by one

  • Travis Reeves

    Rand paul has my vote! Give us liberty ✊? ??

    • Chaz Evans

      Unless you need an abortion then your liberty goes out the window…read a newspaper. Paul is a facist pig just like the rest of his party.

      • Denny

        You’re uninformed and an embarrassment to your party, whatever that may be.

      • Mike Johnson

        Bernie Sanders!

  • chris voris

    No Veteran should have to leave their family, friends, and home to obtain this medication in a legal state.

    • Ted Mishler

      Are you suggesting that only veterans should be granted the rights that our Constitution?
      What about non veterans?
      Must we all have to join the military, and kill people around the world to be granted our human right?
      Why must freedom be granted to the brave ones committed to a bloody fight

      • OGKoala

        You need to chill, Im pretty sure he was just making a remark on the veterans, not inferring anything on the rest of the public.. Everyone deserves access but those that risk their lives for their country there should be no reason anyone or any veterans can’t use marijuana

      • They committed to uphold the Constitution and for some that meant a bloody fight – they didn’t all agree with it and no one here is saying it should only be for our veterans, but until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes and actually been to combat…suffered from the PTSD and physical injuries it has caused, please keep the big mouth run by the small mind SHUT. They SHOULD be the priority right now. Shame on you.

    • Ted Mishler

      Why must freedom ONLY be granted to the brave ones committed to a bloody fight?

    • Ted Mishler

      It just seems to me that cannabis use is a human right, of course veterans should have access to the freedom they fought and risked their lives for

  • Tom,

    Thank you for all you do.

  • Candida Cocca

    I am the widow of a purple heart veteran who chronically suffered from PTSD and pain from war time injuries. He smoked Marijuana to relieve his symptoms so he could enjoy his family life. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for what you are doing

  • J. C. Phillips

    I’m a 3 combat tour Veteran that suffers from glaucoma, chronic and severe PTSD, and chronic lower back pain. Using marijuana help’s me with all of these, as I don’t need to take as many medications, especialy Oxycodone for my back pain. It also helps my PTSD by slowing down my intrusive thoughts and flashbacks. I also sleep better and don’t have near as many nightmares and waking up soaking wet from them. It calm’s my nerves throughout the day, especially when I’m around other people or crouds.

  • jessie james

    Why don’t we all class action sue the feds and all the states on by one to get this done some lawyer could become famous for this any takers

  • been there

    As long as cannabis is federally illegal, all of this crap is “full of sound and fury signifying nothing” (thanks Shakespeare!)

  • WildCherry Gary

    I’ve been in the VA health Care program for 8 years. I have Heart Disease and Advanced Prostate Cancer. I had a Quad
    by-pass in a VA Hospital 8 years ago. I have had chronic pain in my leg since this operation due to the removal of the vein
    in my leg to use in my heart. I have the Michigan Medical Marijuana Card. I have had a prescription from the VA for Hydrocodone
    for 8 years . Last week I refused a drug test at my VA Clinic because I knew I obviously couldn’t pass it ( they told me it was
    for Marijuana ) Because I receive VA Disability, I felt it would look better in my records if I refused a drug test than if I tested
    positive for Marijuana. The VA immediately pulled my script for Hydrocodone. This is the the new VA policy–if you use Marijuana
    you are not allowed to have pain pills. I have now named this new policy by the Feds my ” Pain Punishment” for using Marijuana. I don’t think ( in my case) that Marijuana is a complete substitute for pain pills. It helps me sleep and reduces my
    consumption of Hydrocodone but I don’t want to be “stoned ” all day long. Any others Vets with the same experience ?

    • sean

      I have been on hydrocodone since 2010 I was just taken off of it after a surgery that I had when they found Marijuana in my system but they prescribed me oxycodone after my surgery now my primary care physician is not allowed to refill my hydrocodone

  • hope4all

    Hello fellow vets and bloggers. I have suffered from injuries sustained from a fall two decks deep onboard a sub-tender in 1974. It was all documented, along with medical records. I have always tried to support myself and family with no assistance. Over the years it caught up to me. In 1996, I had to declare bankruptcy because I was unable to work, also lost my home. I returned to work nine months later, but as time went by, it had a cumulative affect. First hypertension, then type 2 diabetes. I worked as a welder starting in the Navy, and mostly for over 40yrs., never smoked and developed copd. I lost jobs with Union Pacific R/R, and Caterpillar because I was physically unable to perform the work. Just like so many of us, I caught HELL getting my 100% with the V.A., including another bankruptcy. I don’t have a medical marijuana card or use it, but it would seem that the V.A. would know who is abusing their pain meds whether they use medical marijuana are not. My pain meds are strictly monitored. It would seem that if a veteran need both, they should be able to use both as long as there’s no abuse.

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