Features & Columns

Fighting for Veteran Access to
Marijuana after the Fight

In a nation with one of the largest military budgets and strongest fighting forces in the world, we still somehow struggle to provide quality care for our veterans.
VEXING VETS: Federal rules preventing marijuana prescriptions to veterans are a disgrace.

In a nation with one of the largest military budgets and strongest fighting forces in the world, we still somehow struggle to provide quality care for our veterans. The Department of Veterans Affairs prohibits doctors from making recommendations for medical marijuana, even if state law allows such medicine and even if the ailments were created out of military service, such as PTSD, anxiety, insomnia or chronic pain.

Contradictorily, the VA acknowledges that some veterans may find the use of cannabis to be helpful; however, it claims there's a lack of evidence and continues to hobble doctors and patients from having honest conversations about marijuana as a treatment. In fact, the VA even regards cannabis use as a disorder itself, referring to it as a substance use disorder, or SUD.

So what is a veteran to do?

Evidence and testimonies from civilians are building that cannabis can indeed address a plethora of symptoms, including many that haunt our nation's veterans. Yet in order for veterans to get this medicine, they must jump through hoops, including seeking out doctors outside the VA system. This absurd step artificially creates a barrier between patient and VA doctor, preventing discussion about all potential treatment options.

In 2007, President George W. Bush said in his State of the Union address, 'We must remember that the best healthcare decisions are not made by government and insurance companies, but by patients and their doctors.'

These words still ring true today. Regardless of who the patient is or what the ailments are, decisions should remain exclusively between doctor and patient.

Earlier this year, Veterans Affairs secretary Robert McDonald received a letter signed by 21 members of Congress urging the VA to ease restrictions on medical recommendations. Then, on April 20, the DEA green-lighted, for the first time ever, a clinical study of medical marijuana and its effects on PTSD. Serious change may be in the wind. The road forward begins with good data and hard science.

If we continue to remove barriers to quality care for our nation's veterans, we can ensure fair access and a right to choose among all treatment options.

Tawnie Logan is the executive director of the Sonoma County Growers Alliance. She can be reached at [email protected]