This week Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) introduced a bill that would help recovering vets access medical marijuana through the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. The bill, called ‘The Veterans Equal Access Act,’ would allow VA doctors to prescribe medical marijuana to veterans with certain conditions.
Blumenaur expressed his concerns this week, saying, “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.” Blumenaur stressed urgency in his statements, calling current drug policy antiquated.
The VA is the largest network of medical facilities in the country. Under federal control the VA is prohibited from prescribing medical marijuana to it’s patients, even to those who would qualify otherwise. With nearly half of states allowing some form of medical marijuana, this puts vets who depend solely on the VA for healthcare at a tremendous disadvantage.
The Veteran’s Administration has a dubious history of overprescribing and under-performing in the care of veterans. A recent study showed that almost 1 million veterans are receiving opiates for chronic pain and nearly half of those vets continue taking the medication beyond 90 days.
Additionally, The Center for Investigative Reporting found that the death rate from opiate overdoses among veterans is nearly double the national average. All the while, states with medical marijuana programs have shown a 25 percent decrease in the number of deaths caused by painkillers between 1999 and 2010.
If numbers could talk, these figures would say that we are doing a disservice to our veterans and aren’t using all of the tools available to help war-torn service-members. Blumenaur’s statement reflected this sentiment, saying, “In states where patients can legally access medical marijuana for painful conditions, often as a less-addictive alternative, the hands of VA physicians should not be tied.”
The efficacy of medical marijuana for many conditions has been substantiated by scientific evidence, and now, 23 states have recognized the plant’s potential. Though it hasn’t yet been tested on PTSD, a 2015 study will break ground on the use of cannabis to treat returning vets.
The neglect of veterans is one of the most shameful acts that our federal government can make. Blumenauer seems to agree, saying, “It pushes both doctors and their patients toward drugs that are potentially more harmful and more addictive. It’s insane, and it has to stop.”
Photo Credit: RCB