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House bill to overturn VA medical marijuana ban

Posted on November 22nd, 2014 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , .

medical marijuanaUS representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), along with ten bipartisan co-sponsors introduced, the Veterans Equal Access Act (VEAA) Nov. 20, to allow our country's veterans to become medical marijuana patients in states where it's legal. The VEAA would allow Veterans Affairs (VA) physicians to recommend medical marijuana to their patients, a right enjoyed by physicians outside of the VA system. "Post traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury are just as damaging and harmful as any injuries that are visible from the outside," said Blumenauer, the bill's author. "Sometimes even more so because of the devastating effect they can have on a veteran's family. We should be allowing these wounded warriors access to the medicine that will help them survive and thrive, including medical marijuana, not treating them like criminals and forcing them into the shadows. It's shameful."

In 2011, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) issued a directive stating: "VHA policy does not administratively prohibit Veterans who participate in State marijuana programs from also participating in VHA substance abuse programs, pain control programs, or other clinical programs where the use of marijuana may be considered inconsistent with treatment goals." However, while giving wide discretion to continue discrimination against veterans, the policy forbids VA physicians from issuing medical marijuana recommendations.

Many veterans have no doctor other than their VA physician. With more than a million US veterans at risk of homelessness, they often don't have the option to pay for private physicians. As a result, veterans are either denied critical pain medication and other pharmaceuticals because of their medical marijuana use, or they are forced by their VA physicians to go without an important and adjunct therapy.

"Millions of Americans suffer from PTSD and chronic pain, but our veterans are even more adversely affected by these conditions, and yet we fail to treat them with the same level of respect," said Mike Liszewski, government affairs director with Americans for Safe Access. "Veterans must be given the same rights and health care options that we give other Americans, especially where medical marijuana is concerned."

Researchers were granted permission earlier this year to study the effects of medical marijuana on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). However, soon after, the University of Mississippi, the sole supplier of research-grade cannabis in the US, said it was unable to provide the requested strains, causing delays in the research. More recently, in June, the study hit another snag after the lead researcher, Dr. Sue Sisley, was abruptly fired by the University of Arizona. In March, the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs published a study that found participants who used inhaled marijuana reported an average of 75% reduction in PTSD symptoms. (ASA, Nov. 20)

There has also been litigation challenging the VA policy.

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