Pubdate: Tue, 16 Dec 2014
Source: Herald, The (Everett, WA)
Copyright: 2014 The Daily Herald Co.
Page: A9


Government agencies and legislative bodies, which usually move at a 
slug-like pace, can act quickly, especially if no one is particularly 
seeking the change. The Department of Justice announced last week 
that Indian tribes can grow and sell marijuana on their lands as long 
as they follow the same federal conditions laid out for states that 
have legalized the drug, the Associated Press reported. Never mind 
that many tribes oppose legalization and only a few have expressed 
interest in the marijuana industry. But the choice is there, just in 
case. (Which is a good thing.)

In contrast, for several years now, veterans, advocacy and medical 
groups have petitioned the federal government to reclassify marijuana 
as a drug with medical benefits, from its current Schedule 1, which 
means marijuana is not recognized as having any medical benefit. A 
reclassification would allow doctors to recommend it, veterans to use 
it and researchers to legally study it.

The schedule change can come from the president, the attorney 
general, the DEA or Congress. As it happens, a bill introduced in 
Congress in November sidesteps the classification dilemma altogether, reported. The Veterans Equal Access Act - introduced with 
bipartisan support - would remove a ban on Veterans Administration 
doctors giving opinions or recommendations on medical marijuana to 
veterans who live in states where it is legal.

It's not an ideal bill, since all veterans should be able to take 
advantage of such a change, (as well as active duty personnel) 
regardless of where they live, but it is a start.

More and more veterans are calling for access, according to the 
Washington Post. Veterans report that cannabis is effective for 
conditions related to military service - from chronic back pain and 
neuropathic issues to panic attacks and insomnia - and often 
preferable to widely prescribed opioid painkillers and other drugs.

Extremely preferable, in fact, to addiction and overdose, whether by 
accident or suicide. The opioid epidemic that is so prevalent in 
society is even worse in the military, whose members are prescribed 
narcotic painkillers three times as often as civilians, public radio 
station KPLU (94.9 FM) reported.

The prescriptions often make problems worse.

In 2012, researchers at the San Francisco VA Medical Center published 
a paper showing that VA doctors prescribed significantly more opiates 
to patients with PTSD and depression than to other veterans - even 
though people suffering from those conditions are most at risk of 
overdose and suicide. Scientific studies have demonstrated the 
benefits of cannabis for veterans suffering from post-traumatic 
stress syndrome, some of whom were on the brink of suicide, making 
the option a godsend.

In the absolute best interests of our veterans, Congress needs to 
pass the Veterans Equal Access bill, and in the interest of science 
and reality, go ahead and change Schedule 1 classification of cannabis as well.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom