Vets Will Still Smoke at White House
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Vets Will Still Smoke at White House
Posted by CN Staff on May 19, 2016 at 12:26:25 PT
By Steven Nelson, Staff Writer 
Source: U.S. News & World Report
Washington, D.C. -- Marijuana reform advocates celebrated Thursday as the House of Representatives approved a spending bill amendment aiming to allow Veterans Health Administration doctors to authorize medical marijuana use for patients – but activists pressing for deeper reform still intend to smoke illegally and lay in the street in acts of civil disobedience outside the White House on Friday.The legislative win follows a Senate committee’s April passage of the same amendment in a 20-10 vote. The House’s Thursday vote, 233-189, featured 57 Republicans joining all but five Democrats in favor. Last year, the House narrowly rejected the measure, but the Senate then passed it as part of the underlying bill and is expected to do so again.
The anticipated reform comes after Congress in 2014 and again last year banned the Justice Department and its subsidiaries – including the FBI and DEA – from using appropriated funds to undermine state medical marijuana programs. The veterans measure met some resistance from lawmakers who pointed out the drug remains illegal under federal law.Rep. Charles Dent, R-Pa., said he was unenthused to represent the opposition during debate. “I understand the country is evolving,” he said, “I’m uncomfortable, however, in trying to dictate policy on marijuana without guidance on the FDA, NIH and other medical professionals.” Research into medical benefits ascribed to the drug is made difficult by marijuana’s decades-old designation as a Schedule I substance.Last year, Dent was more energized in his opposition, warning: “The amendment won’t change the situation for veterans unless the doctors are willing to risk prosecution,” even though federal enforcement actions are rare against providers or the estimated 1 million state-legal marijuana patients.Attorney Brandon Wyatt, an Iraq War veteran who uses medical marijuana in the nation’s capital, says he’s happy with the House vote but still plans to help lead the Friday protest at the White House in his role as policy coordinator of Weed for Warriors.Wyatt says the government should pay for veterans’ medical marijuana and better track veteran suicides, and he points out that veterans living in the 26 states that do not allow medical marijuana won’t benefit from the spending amendment.“To treat veterans differently from state to state is wrong,” he says. “We didn’t fight for state to state, we fought for the whole country.”The Veterans Health Administration currently does not allow its physicians to discuss marijuana as a treatment option with patients in states with medical pot laws, forcing veterans to turn elsewhere for guidance and the paperwork necessary to acquire the drug.State medical marijuana laws vary greatly. Some allow only a small number of conditions to be treated with the drug, while others like California have famously lax guidelines. The Obama administration largely tolerates state medical (and recreational) marijuana programs, despite marijuana possession for any reason outside limited research remaining a federal crime. The legislation won’t change the federal illegality of using marijuana as medicine.In the nation's capital, local activists have been trying to turn up the heat on President Barack Obama – an admitted past marijuana user and reported member of a youthful pot-smoking “choom gang” – to reschedule or deschedule marijuana before he leaves office in January. That reform can be made without Congress and advocates believe it would fling open the doors to research and rapidly allow the development of new medicines derived from the plant.Obama has resisted using his adminstrative authority to do so, and reformers believe it won’t happen soon if he doesn’t act, with Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump having less apparent enthusiasm and little reported personal connection to the issue.Wyatt says additional research made possible by rescheduling marijuana could allow for insurance-covered medicines put into properly dosed pills and inhalers. But in the meantime, many of his fellow veterans smoke the drug to treat without FDA approval various physical and mental health conditions.The Weed for Warriors leader says he won’t be smoking Friday at the White House because he will be helping coordinate the event, but he says he believes most if not all other veterans will commit civil disobedience, risking arrest for use of the drug and also for laying down on the pedestrian-only section of Pennsylvania Avenue in a “die-in” featuring many empty pill bottles to make the case the prescription medications, particularly opioids, are more harmful than marijuana to injured troops.The debate about veteran access is emotional for some former members of the military who claim the drug helped them overcome post-service challenges. T.J. Thompson, a Navy veteran who says marijuana helped him treat severe depression, said in a statement that “today is a monumental day for us vets. Congress has recognized our right to heal."Although an overwhelming majority of Americans tell pollsters they support legal access to medical marijuana, claims about the drug's abilities to treat conditions are controversial among dissenters who say there’s little scientific proof of efficacy.“We understand the emotional appeal, but there's no science suggesting marijuana helps mental illnesses like PTSD,” says Kevin Sabet, leader of the anti-marijuana legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana.“In fact, Yale studies and others have recently shown that marijuana aggravates PTSD. A lot of the impetus from this comes from people who want to make money from promoting marijuana use,” he claims – fighting words for medical marijuana advocates. An FDA-approved study by cannabis community icon Dr. Sue Sisley on use of marijuana to treat PTSD is about to begin, following a long delay featuring various bureaucratic hoops.Adam Eidinger, who spearheaded the successful 2014 marijuana legalization ballot initiative in the nation’s capital through the D.C. Cannabis Campaign (DCMJ), says he will be at the White House on Friday to press Obama to take action to deschedule marijuana. DCMJ hosted a large and blatantly illegal “smoke in” on April 2, at which hundreds of people protested under a marijuana haze. After no arrests were made, the group returned April 16 with an even larger marijuana seed giveaway outside Obama’s home.“It’s not going to change my plans,” Eidinger says, noting he offered to call off the event in exchange for another meeting with White House officials. He and DCMJ co-founder Nikolas Schiller met with low-level officials from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy after the smoke-in.“We offered to call off this protest entirely and turn it into a thank you event for the White House if they would meet with us,” Eidinger says. “We think there should be regular meetings every month where we sit down and discuss progress,” adding the next big protest he’s planning will be at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.Some activists who have long worked to encourage lawmakers to support reform, however, were simply happy Thursday about a hard-fought win.“We anticipate this amendment will reach the president, and once signed, it will give VA physicians another tool in their toolbox to treat the healthcare needs of America’s veterans," says Michael Liszewski, government affairs director for the advocacy group Americans for Safe Access.Montana Sen. Steve Daines, the Republican co-sponsor of the Senate version, said in a statement he was glad to see the House breakthrough. “Bottom-line when veterans walk into a VA facility and talk with their doctor they should be able to discuss all options available to them," he said.Steven Nelson is a reporter at U.S. News & World Report. Source: U.S. News & World Report (US)Author: Steven Nelson, Staff Writer Published: May 19, 2016Copyright: 2016 U.S. News & World ReportWebsite: Medical Marijuana Archives 
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Comment #1 posted by Hope on May 21, 2016 at 08:09:51 PT
If they have become afflicted with horrible nightmares cannabis will help them so much. Before I ever heard of medical cannabis, I had noticed that the vivid dreams and nightmares that had roiled my sleep since childhood stopped when I used cannabis and eventually came back if I didn't. It was a Godsend to me. I could rest instead of fighting dreadful and horrific demons and events in stunningly realistic dreams. When I wake in terror from them I can still feel the touches and wounds from the dreams. They linger on your skin like they really happened.Somehow, cannabis can stop sleep terrors and the damage they can do.But the government here still says, "No". I'd really like to let every prohibitionist that is the cause of or backs the cruel and stupid injustice of cannabis prohibition have the experience instead of the people they deny the plants use to. That's not hate, I think. It's a not a deadly event, like cancer can be, and it could be a learning or enlightening event fot them.A shrink or dangerous pill can't stop night terrors, but a gentle herb can.
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