Medical marijuana has long been known to be effective in treating conditions like anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain. Yet the U.S. military has long taken a hard-line stance against marijuana, a position solidified during the Vietnam War as reports blasted on the evening news indicated that half of all soldiers deployed were regularly using marijuana. A study by the Pentagon later revealed the actual figure was closer to 70 percent. This, along with the crash of an aircraft carrier by soldiers later found to have marijuana in their systems led to a zero tolerance policy.
This has led to all sorts of injustices. Historically, it’s been military policy to exclude from entrance any individual who previously used marijuana as a civilian. In recent years, waivers for “past misconduct” have risen, and are expected to continue rising. Just last year, for instance, the Military Times reported a Vietnam War veteran and head of a military school in Florida was terminated for using medical marijuana extract to treat cancer.
Now, Congressional leaders have filed twin bills in the House and Senate to change federal law that would allow U.S. veterans who abide by state medical marijuana laws to avoid federal intervention and would allow doctors with the Department of Veterans Affairs to issue medical marijuana recommendations to their patients. The Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act, sponsored by U.S. Senate Democrats from California and Hawaii, notes that the drug is legal in 33 states and that medical marijuana can be used to treat chronic pain without the use of dangerous and highly addictive opiates. The sponsor of the House version of the bill said in a statement, “it’s past time to end the anti-science, anti-health cannabis prohibition laws that prevent veterans from accessing health care.”
Our Los Angeles medical marijuana lawyers also believe that veterans and their doctors should be allowed to make health care decisions that are informed – without political interference.
This legislation, if passed, would also require the VA to initiate a study of the impact of medical marijuana on veterans suffering from pain, and the relationship between treatment programs involving medical marijuana to treat the chronic pain of veterans in states where it’s legal, how many veterans have access to those programs The proposal would allocate $15 million to support this research.
These measures are virtually identical to the legislation proposed last year in the Senate, but this year, it adds protection for medical marijuana policies of Native American tribes as well as in states where the drug is legal.
Sponsors note that states like California that allow medical marijuana have nearly 25 percent fewer opiod overdoses compared to those states with tight restrictions that do not allow medical marijuana. The provisions in the law that would shield veteran patients and their physicians would sunset after a period of five years, after which it would require renewal.
As longtime Los Angeles medical marijuana attorneys, we know veterans have increasingly been turning to marijuana as medicine to treat some of the conditions most common among combat soldiers.
Republican-controlled House and Senate majorities in recent years have blocked legislation that would lift or at least loosen federal restrictions on marijuana, considered a Schedule I narcotic under the Controlled Substances Act. Increasing evidence indicates overwhelming support for medical marijuana at all ends of the political spectrum.
The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.
Lawmakers File Bills To Legalize Medical Marijuana For Military Veterans, Feb. 13, 2019, By Tom Angell, Marijuana Moment
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Cannabis Copyright in California: Protecting Your Budding Brand, Feb. 12, 2019, California Veterans Marijuana Attorney Blog