Pubdate: Sun, 14 Jun 2015
Source: San Diego Union Tribune (CA)
Copyright: 2015 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.
Note: Seldom prints LTEs from outside it's circulation area.
Author: Emily Wax-Thibodeaux, the Washington Post


Senate Panel OK'd Measure to Let Doctors Recommend It for Medicinal Purposes

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

In May, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to support the 
Veterans Equal Access Amendment. Under the measure, the U.S. 
Department of Veterans Affairs would be allowed to recommend medical 
marijuana to patients for medicinal purposes for everything from back 
pain to depression to flashbacks.

Veterans who back the proposal said it's safer and helps more than 
the addictive and debilitating painkillers that are often prescribed.

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 First Amendment rights include 
the right of patients to discuss whatever they want with their physicians.

"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 23 states and Washington, D.C., 
the federal government classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, as 
it does heroin and LSD. That means it has no accepted medical use and 
a high potential for abuse.

VA physicians and chronic-pain specialists said 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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