Pubdate: Fri, 07 Sep 2018
Source: Sarasota Herald-Tribune (FL)
Copyright: 2018 Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Author: Dale White


SARASOTA -- Several panelists made their cases in a Thursday forum for
why marijuana should no longer be classified by the federal government
as a Schedule 1 drug as dangerous as heroin.

The program focused on the Herald-Tribune project "Warriors Rise Up," 
which found a gaping rift between what many combat veterans want to 
treat their post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries 
and what they can legally get.

Rather than a cocktail of painkillers, many veterans prefer the relief
they receive from marijuana. Because of marijuana's Schedule 1
designation under federal law, however, the VA has not considered it
an option -- even in states that have legalized the drug for medical

Project reporter Billy Cox explained that an average of 20.6 veterans
commit suicide daily, with 3.8 of those being active-duty personnel.
The nation has lost more troops to suicide than to a decade of the
global war on terror. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans
Affairs, more than 75,000 Americans with military backgrounds killed
themselves in the 10 years from 2005 to 2015.

The Schedule 1 classification is "not only fraudulent policy,
it's immoral," Cox said.

Veterans Affairs dispenses addictive opioid prescriptions "like candy," 
he said. Although the federal government has yet to record a fatality 
caused by marijuana, opioids continue to be a leading cause of death 
among addicts.

On Wednesday, two Democratic U.S. senators, Florida's Bill Nelson and
Hawaii's Brian Schatz introduced legislation to allow Veterans Affairs
doctors to prescribe marijuana to veterans in the 31 states that have
legalized it for medical use, including Florida.

The bill would also direct the VA to conduct research on the effects
of medical marijuana on veterans for pain management and how it can be
used to reduce opioid abuse. Veterans are twice as likely as
non-veterans to die from an opioid overdose.

Cox told Nelson, who visited Mote Marine on Thursday, that veterans do
not think his legislation goes far enough, that they want marijuana's
Schedule 1 classification removed. He said Nelson responded that it is
very difficult to get any changes in federal law pertaining to marijuana.

Had he instead been prescribed cannabis, "my son would be alive today," 
Lutz insisted.

Lutz decided to go public in a highly visible way, and started
compiling photos of veterans who committed suicide because they were
denied access to cannabis for a wall used for public demonstrations.
She has 384 laminated photos of "youthful faces" on a
display that alarms and saddens viewers.

Former Israeli Defense Force master sergeant Sam Schneider, a local
CBD (cannabidiol) retailer, explained that he sells a derivative from
industrial hemp. He touts it as helpful for people suffering from
pain, anxiety, seizures and fractures. He said he sees customers
experiencing improvements within 10 minutes. He has 500 clients each
month, many of them using CBD to "detox" themselves from
strong painkillers.

Jordan described troubles with the criminal justice system after law
enforcement raided their house and confiscated their marijuana plants.

As a Vietnam veteran, Jordan said he became "hooked" on
painkillers the VA prescribed for his PTSD.

He agreed with Schneider that derivatives are not as effective as the
whole cannabis plant.

If marijuana were fully legalized, "imagine what science could
do" in finding more beneficial uses for it, Jordan said.
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