Pubdate: Wed, 05 Sep 2018
Source: Sarasota Herald-Tribune (FL)
Copyright: 2018 Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Author: Billy Cox


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

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

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.