Author Topic: New Bill to Allow VA Doctors to Recommend MMJ Introduced  (Read 2846 times)

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New Bill to Allow VA Doctors to Recommend MMJ Introduced
« Reply #1 on: 12-03-2014 at 08:50:23 AM »
New Bill to Allow VA Doctors to Recommend MMJ Introduced
(From ASA Dec. 2014 newsletter)

New Bill to Allow VA Doctors to Recommend

Veterans will be able to discuss medical cannabis as a treatment option with their doctors in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) if a new bipartisan bill is approved in Congress. Currently, federal policy prohibits VHA doctors from discussing medical cannabis with their patients, despite federal court rulings that such discussions are protected by the First Amendment.

At the end of November, Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), along with five Republican and five Democrat House cosponsors, introduced the Veterans Equal Access Act. If adopted, the bill would allow VHA physicians to recommend medical cannabis to their patients.

"Post traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury are just as damaging and harmful as any injuries that are visible from the outside, sometimes even more so because of the devastating effect they can have on a veteran's family, " said Rep. Blumenauer, the bill's author. "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."

A similar bill came close to passage in the last session of Congress. The cosponsors this session include members from states that have medical cannabis programs and states that do not: Dina Titus (D-NV), Justin Amash (R-MI), Paul Broun (R-GA), Walter Jones (R-NC), Thomas Massie (R-KY), Sam Farr (D-CA), Jared Polis (D-CO), Beto O'Rourke (D-TX), Steve Stockman (R-TX) and Steve Cohen (D-TN).

Many veterans report that cannabis can help with PTSD. Inhaled cannabis reduced PTSD symptoms by an average of 75% in one clinical study whose results were published this spring. A study of using cannabis to help treat PTSD in veterans has been approved by the federal government, pending funding. Medical cannabis has also been shown effective for many patients living with other serious medical conditions that disproportionately affect veterans, including cancer, neurological disorders, multiple sclerosis, and chronic pain.

"Our combat veterans are far more likely to suffer from PTSD and chronic pain than other Americans, and their VHA doctors know better than most how difficult those conditions can be to treat with conventional medications," said Mike Liszewski, ASA Government Affairs Director. "Veterans deserve the same rights and health care options granted other Americans, especially where medical cannabis is concerned."

In 2011, the VHA issued a directive that allows veterans who use medical cannabis as part of an approved state program to remain under VHA pain management care. But the policy also prohibits VHA doctors from providing the recommendations that those state programs require for participation.

For many veterans, the VHA system provides all their health care. With more than a million U.S. veterans at risk of homelessness due to poverty, many do not have the ability to pay for private physicians in order to meet their health care needs.

More than half a million veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from PTSD and depression, with those conditions contributing to a suicide rate among veterans of 22 per day. Almost a million veterans suffer from pain that requires opiate narcotics to treat, with more than half of those needing to take those dangerous drugs for more than 90 days. The fatal overdose rate among veterans is nearly double the national average, but states that have enacted medical cannabis programs have seen drops in fatal opiate overdoses of 20-30 percent, as well as decreases in suicide rates of 5 percent.

Further information:
Veterans Equal Access Act: