This Veterans Day, you will likely read and hear many political leaders paying lip service to honor our nation’s veterans.
But as they list out their policy prescriptions, one that directly impacts nearly one-in-four veterans will be suspiciously absent: Marijuana.
Post-traumatic stress, chronic pain, and other medical issues can be a matter of life or death, and failure of VA policy to allow physicians to openly talk about cannabis or recommend it has a deleterious effect on the doctor-patient relationship and on the well-being of our veterans.
There are two pieces of legislation currently pending in Congress that would end this needless discrimination: the Veterans Equal Access Act in the House and The Veterans Medical Marijuana and Safe Harbor Act in the Senate.
These reforms are absolutely necessary given the alarming rates of opioid addiction and suicide by veterans. According to data released last year by the Department of Veterans Affairs, twenty former servicemen and women take their lives each day, while a 2011 report revealed that veterans are twice as likely to die from an opioid overdose compared to the civilian population.
Veterans acknowledge using marijuana at rates far higher than the general population, and nearly half of them describe their use as self-medicating, according to data published earlier this year in the journal Addictive Behaviors.
This Veterans Day, our federal lawmakers would be wise to end the criminalization of healthcare by veterans. Addressing the senseless federal prohibition of marijuana and allowing it’s therapeutic use to be legally accessed by the tens-thousands of veterans who are already consuming it for such purposes makes sense from a moral, compassionate, political, and fiscal perspective.
The fact is that these men and women put on the uniform to defend this nation’s freedoms and it is the height of hypocrisy that they return as civilians only to be criminals in the eyes of the state as they seek health care.