In what might be a surprise to some, a growing number of people are joining the fight to change the classification of marijuana from a Schedule 1 narcotic to Schedule 3, which would put it in the same class as anabolic steroids and codeine.
The American Legion has been busy trying to refocus the debate and they are on record stating that an increased availability of medical marijuana would be beneficial in reducing suicide rates of returning soldiers suffering PTSD from “the horrors of war.”
“The federal government has lied to the American people for a generation about #cannabis in asserting it has no medical value. I can tell you it’s not true,” said @RepMattGaetz (R-Fla.). Thanks for standing with America’s veterans today, congressman!
— American Legion DC (@legionindc) November 3, 2017
A spokesman for the American Legion, Joe Plenzer, was interviewed via telephone by The New York Times:
“We’ve got young men and women with PTSD and traumatic brain injuries coming to us and saying that cannabis works.”
Veteran Thomas James Brennan offered a first-hand account of what it is like to suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). His descriptive accounts make the reader feel almost like you’re there with him:
“The T.B.I. brings on almost daily migraines, and when they come, it’s as if the blast wave from the explosion in Afghanistan is still reverberating through my brain, shooting fresh bolts of pain through my skull, once again leaving me incapacitated. Initially the prescriptions helped — as they do for many veterans. But when I continued to feel bad, the answers from my doctors were always the same: more pills. And higher dosages. And more pills to counteract the side effects of those higher dosages. Yet none of them quite worked.”
Nothing worked. Until a friend handed him a marijuana cigarette. He hesitated to light up at first. Marijuana was a “gateway drug” and he already had enough drugs prescribed for this and that. But he finally lit up. And had the best sleep he’d had since returning home. Marijuana has since replaced his mini-pharmacy of antidepressants, mood boosters, and drugs to counter-act the effects of drugs to counter-act the effect of other drugs (ad infinitum). The only problem? It’s still illegal.
“Dr. Frank Ochberg, a psychiatrist and former associate director of the National Institute of Mental Health, believe that ‘medical marijuana absolutely belongs in the pharmacy for post-traumatic stress and brain injury treatment.’ The V.A., Dr. Ochberg said, ‘is failing veterans by not making cannabis a treatment option.’”
In Florida, Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz has joined forces with Democrat Darren Soto to co-author a bill that would reclassify marijuana as a Schedule 3 drug. Gaetz said:
“I think my political party became too committed to this antiquated dogma of the ’70s and ’80s.”
In a time when more veterans are turning to the illegal drug to replace “zombie drugs” like opioids and antidepressants, it is good to see the effort to legalize medical marijuana gain some influential allies. While there has been very little research into the medical benefits of marijuana due to its classification in the Schedule 1 family, there is enough positive information in the system to warrant the consideration of reclassification.
A Quinnipac poll released in April shows a great support for medical marijuana use:
“Voters also support 94 – 5 percent ‘allowing adults to legally use marijuana for medical purposes if their doctor prescribes it,’ also the highest level of support in any national poll by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University.”
Because of the decades-long incorrect argument that marijuana is a “gateway drug” spouted by pharmaceutical companies and legislators receiving huge lobbying dollars to vote against legalization, the battle is a difficult one. President Donald Trump was in support of medical marijuana during his campaign, which probably got him a few extra votes, but then he placed Jeff Sessions in the Attorney General position and Sessions is deathly against any form of marijuana use, medical or recreational.
Executive director of Veterans Cannabis Project, Nick Etten, said of Sessions:
“He is putting politics, antiquated policies and his own personal opinion ahead of the health needs of veterans in this country.”
There might be some light at the end of the tunnel. In a Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearing on October 18, Sessions did mention that he was “considering expanding the supply of research-grade marijuana.”
While the quickest route is to reclassify marijuana from Schedule 1 to Schedule 3, one thing is certain is that something needs to be done to help our veterans. Trump can preach “respect our troops” all he wants, but if that respect ceases when the plane lands on American soil then he isn’t really respecting our troops.
Watch Trump announce his thoughts on marijuana during a rally last year: