Veterans becoming focal point for marijuana reform
Veterans are not only becoming the focus of cannabis law reform groups, they are actively involved in leading those organizations, and are a vocal faction of citizen lobbyists.
Earlier this year the non-profit marijuana advocacy organization Texas NORML hosted a PTSD and medical cannabis seminar which focused on the use of medical cannabis to help soldiers treat PTSD, relieve pain, and reduce their intake of prescription pills which otherwise harm the body’s organs. The conference was held just outside of Fort Hood in Killeen. There was also a veteran lobby day while the state legislature was in session, and many veterans testified in support of a medical marijuana bill which ultimately was not allowed to be voted on.
“Veterans have discovered that cannabis is more effective for the symptoms of PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and chronic pain than pharmaceutical medications. Narcotic pain meds are dangerous and addictive, and psychotropic meds often have severe and negative side effects,” says David Bass.
Bass, a retired Major with the U.S. Army, is the veteran outreach coordinator for and a leader of Texas NORML. Most National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) chapters around the state have a veteran serving in some sort of leadership position.
“Veterans do not fit the ‘hippie stoner’ stereotype,” he adds. “They served our country bravely and they are students, workers and family people. Veterans are effective and fearless spokespersons for medical marijuana.”
Bass says that veterans contact Texas NORML on a regular basis and they all tell the same story of how they found medical cannabis to be an effective treatment for them.
“We also have veterans contacting us from Colorado and Washington who have moved there from Texas as medical marijuana refugees. They want to know what they can do from Colorado and Washington to help get medical marijuana in Texas. Most of them have family here in Texas. They would move back to Texas if we can get a medical program here. We want our legislators to look veterans in the eye and hear our veterans attest to the healing properties of marijuana.”
Texas is home to over 1.5 million veterans, and an estimated 1.3 million Texans consume marijuana on a regular basis. Chances are a good chunk of those regular consumers are veterans, however the number would likely be higher if not for federal policy.
Currently veterans who test positive for cannabis who live in states that do not have medical marijuana programs can have their prescriptions withheld until they can pass a drug test. Doctors with the Veterans Administration (VA) are currently prohibited from recommending medical marijuana, even in states where it is legal. That policy is evolving however.
The federal government classifies cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug, meaning that it has no acceptable medical use. However, a recent funding bill in the U.S. Senate with an amendment to allow VA doctors to recommend medical marijuana was passed unanimously.
A coalition group spearheaded by Marijuana Policy Project called Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy which includes several organizations around Texas recently unveiled a new initiative called Operation Trapped.
A statement reads, “Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy wants to send a message to state lawmakers that it’s time for a better option, and you can help. We have launched a one-year project to collect a single used prescription bottle from every state veteran who wants a safer alternative. Texas veterans should not be treated like criminals simply for treating a disability they received for defending this country. They are entitled to educate legislators about cannabis and encourage our state to adopt a comprehensive medical marijuana program. Texas shouldn’t wait any longer to offer a workable, compassionate program that benefits all in our state.”
Included in each bottle will be a slip of paper which gives the soldier’s name, branch, dates of service, combat operations, and disabilities. There will also be a toy soldier in each as well.
These bottles are meant to send a message to state lawmakers to demonstrate the many veterans in need of a medical cannabis program.
Bass concludes “we are urging veterans to be front and center in the fight for medical marijuana in Texas. As veterans, we have made many sacrifices to protect and serve our country. Far too many soldiers come home to endure the debilitating conditions caused by war. These veterans, along with many other patients, are being left out in the cold.”
Operation Trapped was officially kicked off on Veterans Day at the state capital in Austin where dozens of activists participated in the Veterans Day parade and a press conference was held afterwards.
According to a recent CBS poll, 86 percent of Americans are in support of using marijuana for medical purposes.