Under a new proposal, the Dept. of Veterans Affairs would be prohibited from spending any money to punish veterans who use medical marijuana in accordance with state law.
A Senate bill passed on the eve of Veteran’s Day states that none of the funds made available to the Department may be used in a manner that would: “interfere with the ability of a veteran to participate in a State-approved medicinal marijuana program; deny any services from the Department to a veteran who is participating in such a program; or limit or interfere with the ability of a health care provider of the Department to make appropriate recommendations, fill out forms, or take steps to comply with such a program.”
Many veterans who suffer from physical and mental ailments as a result of their service, say marijuana “radically improved” their lives. But they still have to find it on the black market, because many states still view cannabis consumption as “totally illegal.”
Veterans like David Bass are trying to change that. Bass believes pot provides “a safer alternative” to the pharmaceutical drugs they are often prescribed for PTSD, traumatic brain injury, pain, and other common injuries of modern warfare. Bass says despite telling VA doctors that the prescribed meds made him feel zombie-like, and caused other dangerous side effects, the physicians told him to continue taking them for two more years.
When Bass marches today in the city of Austin’s Veterans Day Parade — along with dozens of Army, Navy and Air Force veterans– a pro-medical cannabis message will be included, for the first time.
Many veterans across the country are fighting for wider acceptance of the health benefits of marijuana . And some are calling on current candidates for president to take a stand on the issue. Vets like Bass, who are pushing for a change in legislation, want to know why candidates like NJ Gov. Chris Christie believe that pharmaceutical drugs like opioids and narcotics with severe side effects are better than cannabis.
During a recent exchange with a citizen in Iowa, the GOP candidate made his views on medical marijuana very clear.
“It’s a gateway drug…causes enormous destruction… decreases productivity… I support limited medical use,” Christie told the crowd.
The problem is that many candidates like Christie do not want to remove marijuana from the “Schedule 1” narcotics list. Drugs in this category, like heroin and cocaine, have no medically accepted use and a high potential for abuse.
Other candidates like Hillary Clinton support a policy that would ease some restrictions but not allow recreational use. “We’ll take that, Bass said. She wants to put it in Schedule 2, so we can at least do more research. It’s better than Schedule 1,” he added.
According to Think Progress, Dr. Ben Carson spoke about the issue during his recent tour across Florida. He reportedly called medical marijuana “excellent,” saying it works very well for a lot of seizure patients. But the Republican presidential candidate also added that general legalization of marijuana “is a terrible idea.”
Current federal funding runs out on December 11, and Congressional leaders are in discussions they hope will result in an omnibus spending package that can be approved prior to that date, according to marijuana.com The provisions stated in the Senate bill are also in a separate package of spending bills which committee chair Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) is hoping both chambers can agree upon.