The War on Drugs employs millions – politicians, bureaucrats, policemen, and now the military – that probably couldn’t find a place for their dubious talents in a free market, unless they were to sell pencils from a tin cup on street corners.
-L. Neil Smith
Government policy toward marijuana is replete with irrationality and corruption, spurred by Reefer Madness politicians and moneyed interests. It even extends to the sanctified realm of “national defense.”
The U.S. Veterans Administration currently bans its physicians from recommending medical marijuana to treat post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a debilitating condition that is now affecting veterans in epidemic proportions.
Regardless of our stance on wars of aggression in the Middle East, returning soldiers deserve the same advanced medical treatment that other people receive. The usual treatment for PTSD is “selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors” (SSRIs) which have a notorious reputation, being highly correlated with suicide and killing sprees. Perhaps it is no coincidence that veterans commit suicide at the alarming rate of 22 every day.
Early clinical research shows that medical marijuana is highly effective for treating PTSD, and it does not have the dangerous side effects of SSRIs. Yet medical marijuana is denied to veterans because of archaic, asinine drug policies.
When federal agencies do allow the rare scientific inquiry into medical marijuana, it can fall victim to state-level backwardness.
Dr. Sue Sisley, a former University of Arizona researcher, secured landmark federal approval to begin clinical studies on marijuana as a treatment for PTSD, focusing on veterans. However, on June 27, 2014 she was abruptly fired from the university with no explanation. It’s no coincidence that earlier in the year, Arizona senator Kimberly Yee blocked state funds that were slotted to be used for the medical marijuana study.
“This is a clear political retaliation for the advocacy and education I have been providing the public and lawmakers,” said Sisley.
How much of this anti-science sentiment is being paid for by lobbyists and prison industry hacks? How long will irrationality and moneyed interests block the way for a treatment that could end so much pain and suffering?
Being deprived of effective treatment through official means, veterans are turning to underground channels to get marijuana. As 26 year old Marine veteran Logan Edwards said:
“The first time I used it, I wanted to cry. Because it took away my anxiety. Because it did everything for me that the Oxycontin, benzodiazepines and anti-depressants the VA prescribed me for three years did not do.
I can function completely fine all day just by using cannabis. I’m back in school. My attendance is good. My grades are good. My relationships have healed.”
It will take an act of Congress to change the immoral policies toward marijuana in the Veterans Administration. 12 federal lawmakers had enough sense and compassion to introduce the “Veterans Equal Access Act” on November 20, 2014, which would overturn the ban on VA physicians recommending medical marijuana.
In other good news, in November 2014 Colorado’s Medical Marijuana Scientific Advisory Council issued preliminary approval to fund Sisley’s research, along with seven other studies using medical marijuana to treat various diseases.