Pubdate: Tue, 26 May 2015
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Copyright: 2015 The Washington Post Company
Author: Emily Wax- Thibodeaux


Veterans suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder and other 
chronic pain issues may be able to ask their VA doctors for a new 
treatment soon: medical marijuana.

Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to back the 
Veterans Equal Access Amendment. Under the measure, Veterans Affairs 
would be allowed to recommend medical marijuana to patients for 
everything from back pain to depression to flashbacks.

Veterans who support the proposal say that it is safer and helps more 
than the addictive and debilitating painkillers that are often 
prescribed. They say using medical cannabis can help combat PTSD's 
insomnia and panic attacks.

The legislation would overturn VA's policy that forbids doctors from 
talking to patients about medical pot use.

Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), who introduced the legislation, argued 
that forbidding VA doctors from talking about the option of medical 
marijuana is unconstitutional. He said that First Amendment rights 
include the right of patients to discuss whatever they want with their doctors.

"They can't discuss all the options available to them that they could 
discuss if they literally walked next door to a non-VA facility," he 
said. "I don't believe we should discriminate against veterans just 
because they are in the care of the VA."

While medical marijuana is legal in the District and 23 states, the 
federal government classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, like 
heroin and LSD. That means it has no accepted medical use and a high 
potential for abuse.

VA physicians and chronic-pain specialists say they often want to 
suggest the drug but haven't been able to.

Several studies have shown that states that allow medical marijuana 
for health purposes also found a decrease in the number of 
painkiller-related overdoses.

"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," Michael 
Collins, policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance, said in a 
statement. "They have served this country valiantly, so the least we 
can do is allow them to have full and open discussions with their doctors."
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