Last month, the White House rejected a petition to allow United States disabled military veterans access to medical marijuana to treat their PTSD.
Former Air Force Sgt. Mike Krawitz, the executive director of Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access (VMCA), started the petition last year.
“For many, cannabis not only treats PTSD, it’s a lifesaver,” Krawitz told Military Times.
However, the White House remains unconvinced. The Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Gil Kerlikowske, released a statement saying that marijuana does not meet the standards for safe or effective medicine. “Simply put, it is not a benign drug,” he wrote.
Unfortunately, many veterans still claim that marijuana is the most effective tool at helping them overcome their PTSD symptoms and continue to use it, often throwing themselves into conflict with their doctors and, quite possibly, the law.
There are currently 17 states, in addition to the District of Columbia, where medical marijuana is legal. Only two of these states (New Mexico and Delaware) allow the use of marijuana specifically to treat PTSD. Even if a veteran lives in one of these areas, they are typically discouraged from participating in the program. If a veteran does not live in one of these areas, smoking marijuana could lead to the loss of medical coverage if discovered.
It is unknown how many veterans use medical marijuana programs since the VA doesn’t track them yet. What is known is that many people, and not just former military, are calling for the change. Veterans claim that marijuana significantly helps counter the debilitating symptoms associated with PTSD, traumatic brain injury (TBI), and other types of chronic pain.
According to Dr. Sue Sisley, an internist in private practice and assistant professor of psychiatry and internal medicine at the University of Arizona, in an interview with The Arizona Republic, said that marijuana is extremely effective for veterans. She said many veterans turn to marijuana only after conventional medicine has failed. One study by Duke University in 2000 showed that taking Prozac was no more effective than a placebo at treating PTSD.
“It’s really uncharted territory for veterans and the VA,” said Dr. Sisley. “The VA has taken a position where they’re not going to terminate patients if they have a (medicinal marijuana license), but the truth is that a lot of doctors have a strong bias against it — they believe they are just drug addicts.”
Although there is certainly potential for any drug to be abused, these men and women are suffering and deserve every consideration. It’s unconscionable that some veterans have this option while others could lose their care or potentially be jailed for it. It’s time for a change.
Photo courtesy of Torben Bjorn Hansen.