Drug Law

Bob Kerrey, Montel Williams Ask VA to End Medical Marijuana Policy

| by Marijuana Policy Project

We’ve written previously about the U.S. Veterans Administration’s disgraceful policy of not allowing its doctors to recommend medical marijuana to military veterans, even if they live in a state where medical marijuana is legal or suffer from a condition such as post-traumatic stress disorder, which affects one in five vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and studies have shown can be relieved through marijuana.

Yesterday, former Nebraska senator and governor and Vietnam veteran Bob Kerrey joined the growing call for the VA to change its stance and work to give veterans the care they deserve. In this very thoughtful piece in the Huffington Post, Kerrey and co-author Jason Flom call the VA’s policy “counterproductive and harmful.”

“The ban means that—despite their service to our country—veterans who reside in the 14 states that have legalized medical marijuana are denied the same rights as every other resident of these states,” they continue. “At minimum, the VA should be actively studying whether cannabis and its unique chemical ingredients can be used to reduce post-combat trauma without contributing to drug dependency. Ample research and anecdote strongly suggest this is the case.”

The HuffPo piece includes comments from talk show host Montel Williams, himself a Marine and Navy veteran, as well as Army veteran Paul Culkin from New Mexico, who was recently interviewed on NPR’s “Morning Edition” about the issue.

Culkin’s New Mexico has added PTSD to its list of qualifying conditions for patients, while an effort to do so in neighboring Colorado fell short this year.

But the real outrage here is that the VA’s policy is being directed by the DEA, which has made threats to prosecute VA doctors who recommend medical marijuana in defiance of federal law, even if they are complying with state law. And by not letting vets use marijuana, many are being steered toward more dangerous prescription drugs, or alcohol.

As more veterans like Kerrey, Williams, and Culkin speak out against this double standard (civilian doctors in medical marijuana states are not arrested for recommending medical marijuana), hopefully they can increase pressure on officials and bring about some sort of policy change.