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Senate Green Lights Veterans Medical Pot

Senate SealIt's long been recognized that veterans can suffer from a wide range of physical, mental and emotional issues as a result of their service. These can include recurring pains from serious injuries, PTSD and other after-effects of the stress and anxiety caused by active duty, particularly in combat zones. At the moment, the Veterans Health Administration forbids physicians working for them to discuss the use of medical marijuana as a treatment. This means that veterans who live in states where the use of medical marijuana is recognized need to seek medical advice outside of the veterans' support system in order to be treated. Meanwhile those living in states which have yet to recognize medical marijuana are unable to receive treatment legally.

Actually it is an open question as to whether or not state-level recognition of medical marijuana is actually legal at all. With a very few exceptions, the possession of marijuana is a federal offence. Up until now the Department of Justice has tolerated states legalizing it for medical (and even recreational use) provided that they stayed within certain boundaries. Essentially this meant restricting its sale to minors and ensuring that criminal gangs were unable to use medical marijuana for profit. It should be noted, however, that much of the activity towards legalizing marijuana, at least for medical use, has taken place during Barack Obama's presidency. It remains to be seen what will happen under a future president, particularly a PTSDRepublican one.

This situation has caused frustration amongst some veterans who feel that their needs and wishes deserve greater recognition from the government of a country they risked their lives to defend. Veteran activists are demanding that the government create legislation which allows them to access the treatment they need and want regardless of where they live. This could require some significant legislative changes, which could feasibly meet with resistance from some states such as Ohio, which recently and resoundingly voted against legalization. Having said that, there is a history of states changing their views on medical marijuana. California, Colorado and Oregon all initially voted against it before changing their minds.

For the time being however, veteran activists have scored a small but potentially very significant win. The Senate has now passed legislation which would allow physicians working for the Veterans Health Administration to discuss the use of medical marijuana with their patients. This would not make it legally accessible outside of states where medical marijuana is already recognized, but it would mean that veterans residing in those states could receive the guidance and help they need from their main medical provider rather than having to negotiate an unfamiliar system.

Of course, the bill still has to pass the House of Representatives, which recently voted against a very similar proposal. The margin, however, was 213-210 and two of the no-voters (John Garamendi and Morgan Griffith) have subsequently indicated that they could be open to voting yes should the question be put to them again. Both of these senators are Republicans, which may be a sign that the Republic position on marijuana is starting to thaw, at least as far as medical use is concerned.


MSNL Team MSNL Team / 20th November 2015

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