If there is any group in America that should be allowed to consume marijuana for medical purposes, it's our military veterans. They served our country proudly, and fought for liberty. Yet, our military veterans are not even able to get medical marijuana advice from doctors at VA hospitals. The federal government has a gag order in place that prevents VA doctors from even talking about medical marijuana to patients, even if they know it would help alleviate the patients suffering. That's obviously unacceptable.
Veterans suffer from various ailments like many other people in America, and in some cases, they suffer greatly. They should be allowed to not only talk to their doctor(s) about medical marijuana, they should be able to use it without question because it's a scientifically proven, effective treatment for many things. A retired VA doctor, E. Deborah Gilman, MD, recently wrote an article for The Hill, in which she called on Congress to lift the gag order on VA doctors:
It's true that we could use more studies on marijuana, and we would have them if government agencies weren't actively obstructing them, but the fact of the matter is we have enough information to know that medical marijuana can be a safe and effective treatment for a variety of medical conditions. The clinical and anecdotal evidence for marijuana as a treatment for nausea, appetite loss, muscle spasticity, and severe and chronic pain is overwhelming.
It would be cruel to deny access to any medication for any patient when his or her doctor decides the benefits outweigh the risks and recommends it, but that's particularly true for veterans and medical marijuana. Our men and women in uniform make incredible sacrifices for our country, and the least we could do make every possible treatment option available to them when they come home.
Veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with debilitating injuries are often prescribed highly addictive opioid painkillers with severe side effects, particularly for long-term use. Marijuana poses significantly less risk of dependence, along with fewer and less severe side effects. What's more, studies have shown marijuana can be an effective supplemental therapy by reducing patients' reliance on opioids, or even acting as a "reverse gateway" by replacing narcotic painkillers altogether. Other research shows states where medical marijuana is legal have a 25 percent lower rate of fatal overdoses from opioids.
The guest article on The Hill can be read in full at the link I provided above. I encourage you to read it, and share it with anyone that is skeptical about military veterans using medical marijuana. After all, it was written by someone who was a VA doctor for over two decades. The article was written in anticipation of the now failed vote that would have reformed federal medical marijuana policy had it passed. Sadly, the bill was voted down by just three votes.
But there is a silver lining, in that we are obviously close. Keep contacting your federal representatives and either 1) thank them for voting 'yes' on the bill if they did so, and encourage them to do it again the next time they get the opportunity, or 2) ask them why they voted 'no' if they did so, and try to educate them in a firm but polite way about the scientific evidence that is already out there that proves that marijuana has medical value. Sharing the article I linked to above would be a great place to start!