Pubdate: Wed, 05 Sep 2018 Source: Sarasota Herald-Tribune (FL) Copyright: 2018 Sarasota Herald-Tribune Contact: http://www.heraldtribune.com/sendletter Website: http://www.heraldtribune.com/ Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/398 Author: Billy Cox WIDOWS RISE UP, DEMAND MEDICAL MARIJUANA FOR VETERANS SARASOTA -- The perky melody behind Hollywood Undead's "Bullet" conflicts sharply with the despair in its refrain: "A stomach full of pills didn't work again/I'll put a bullet in my head and I'm gone, gone gone ... "In the days preceding Alan Younger's death, his widow, Amber, says she could hear it playing all the time on his earbuds. After learning last week of the Trump administration's apparent designs on keeping marijuana chained to its Schedule 1 status, the widow of a veteran she describes as "an awesome father" is now adding her voice to a growing chorus of Americans imploring Congress to take action. Despite appeals to lawmakers by America's oldest veterans service organization to scratch cannabis off the Schedule 1 list, an obscure White House entity is drawing up plans to derail accelerating anti-prohibition momentum. Family members affected by the unfolding veterans' suicide epidemic -- now tallying more than 20 fatalities a day -- are incredulous. Lutz was recently featured in a Herald-Tribune special report, "Warriors Rise Up," which focused on the ordeals of military veterans demanding legal access to medical marijuana. Lutz, who sued the Department of Veterans Affairs for the wrongful death of her son, will join a Herald-Tribune Hot Topics panel at Holley Hall in Sarasota for a 90-minute discussion Thursday evening beginning at 5:30 p.m. Faced with a health care crisis in which more than 75,000 veterans and active-duty personnel took their lives from 2005-2015, last year the American Legion queried a sampling of its 2.2 million members for guidance. Ninety-two percent wanted marijuana descheduled in order to promote medical research. As part of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, cannabis was arbitrarily named as a Schedule 1 drug with no medical value, pending review by what became known as the Shafer Commission. In 1972, the Commission urged lawmakers to decriminalize pot, to no avail. Indications that Schedule 1 was improperly imposed on cannabis surfaced as early as 1971 with a Journal of the American Medical Association report on the plant's benefits for glaucoma patients. The first legal medical marijuana patient was registered in 1975, and 2.1 million Americans are officially using cannabis as medicine today. Last year, the National Academy of Sciences chastised federal marijuana policy for hampering legitimate research. In June, 68 percent of Americans told Center for American Progress pollsters they favored legalization. Veterans or their survivors interviewed by the Herald-Tribune said medical marijuana is safer and more effective than most prescription drugs dispensed by the VA, some of which have played significant roles in the suicide crisis. The VA is prohibited by Schedule 1 from prescribing marijuana. Turner's drug of choice was alcohol, which cost him his job as a software engineer and resulted in hospitalization for liver damage. The suicide crippled Judy financially, but the scars aren't hers alone to bear. 'He was starting to crack' Like Judy Crain Turner, Amber Younger responded to the Herald-Tribune's report when she saw her husband's portrait featured on a veteran suicide memorial wall assembled by Janine Lutz. It published on Aug. 12, five years to the day her world was shattered. Like Turner, Younger also is challenging Congress to release marijuana from its Schedule 1 yoke. In fact, according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, more than 60 bills aimed at mitigating America's punitive cannabis policies are now circulating on Capitol Hill. But a proposal to deschedule marijuana -- which could eliminate the need for many of those measures -- has never reached the floor for a vote. NORML deputy director Paul Armentano blames committee chairs Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, of House Rules, and Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, of Senate Judiciary, and Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Virginia, of House Judiciary, for bottling up legislation on Schedule 1. No one from those offices have returned the Herald-Tribune's requests for comment. Amber Younger says her husband struggled with depression long before he entered the military, and that it was exacerbated by his tour of Iraq as a combat medic in 2011. Alan was barred from returning to Iraq after being hospitalized for an unsuccessful suicide attempt during a break back in the States. That's where he learned two of his colleagues were killed by roadside bombs in his absence. Called upon to deliver a eulogy at the 1st Infantry Division's headquarters at Fort Riley, Alan faltered during remarks in the chapel. It took him several agonizing minutes to recover his voice. Younger left the military but attempted a comeback with the Kansas Army National Guard in 2013, only to learn of the self-inflicted death of a buddy he'd served with in Germany. Although he had smoked pot in high school, Alan adhered rigidly to military cannabis prohibition and began drinking heavily instead. During a night of arguing, as 3-year-old daughter Mariska slept in the next room, he pulled the trigger as Amber lunged for the handgun . Amber says her husband deserved the legal right to try marijuana therapy. President Trump's position on marijuana has been erratic. In February, he reportedly called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to cancel a $100 million shipment of medical cannabis bound for the U.S. In June, however, in what appeared to be a rebuke of Attorney General and Schedule 1 hardliner Jeff Sessions, Trump indicated he would "probably" continue to let the states make their own marijuana laws without federal blowback.