United States Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) introduced a bill in September that would make it easier for veterans to access medical cannabis in states where it is legal. Under the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act, veterans would be allowed to “use, possess, or transport medical marijuana” in accordance with individual state laws.
Perhaps most importantly, a key provision of the Safe Harbor Act would allow doctors affiliated with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to fill out and submit a physician certification form attesting that an individual may benefit from the use of mmj. As federal employees, VA doctors are currently prohibited from doing this because cannabis is still considered an illegal drug on the federal level.
Finally, the Safe Harbor Act allocates $15 million for research into the benefits of mmj for former servicemembers. The bill includes a mandate for the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to conduct a study on the effects of medical marijuana on veterans in pain. Upon completion, the Secretary “shall submit to Congress a report on the study, which shall include recommendations for legislative or administrative action as the Secretary considers appropriate.”
What benefits can mmj provide for veterans?
Medical marijuana use has been shown to provide relief for a broad range of health issues, many of which are common among veterans. These include chronic pain, limited range of motion, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), sleep disorders, tremors, depression, and anxiety. In one study, medical cannabis use by veterans was linked to reduced anxiety and insomnia and improved coping ability.
Here in Arizona, the following list of accepted debilitating medical conditions is used to determine whether or not an individual is a qualifying patient under state law. According to the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, patients may also petition to have their condition added if it is not included in the list.
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
- Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS)
- Hepatitis C
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
- Crohn’s disease
- Agitation of Alzheimer’s disease
- A chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or the treatment for a chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition that causes:
- Cachexia or wasting syndrome;
- Severe and chronic pain;
- Severe nausea;
- Seizures, including those characteristics of epilepsy;
- Severe or persistent muscle spasms, including those characteristics of multiple sclerosis
PTSD was added to the list of accepted medical conditions in 2014, but the use of medical marijuana for PTSD is currently limited to palliative care of PTSD symptoms and is not considered a treatment or cure for the condition.
The new bill also hopes to address the nation’s opioid crisis.
A driving force behind the Safe Harbor Act is the reduction of widespread opioid use among U.S. veterans. Opioids are a class of pain-relieving drugs that are highly addictive and may result in death if misused or overused.
According to a recent news release, opioid drug abuse has killed more Americans than the Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam wars combined, which is why addressing the current opioid crisis is now a top priority for the healthcare community. Advocating for more and continued research into the medicinal benefits of marijuana use for chronic pain and other conditions is an important step toward decreasing opioid dependency and preserving the health and well-being of our nation’s veterans.
A bill similar to the Safe Harbor Act, titled the VA Medical Cannabis Research Act, was introduced in April of this year and calls upon the VA to “conduct and support research on the efficacy and safety of certain forms of cannabis and cannabis delivery for veterans enrolled in the VA health care system.” The bill mentions specifically those veterans suffering from chronic pain, PTSD and “other conditions the Secretary determines appropriate.”
What happens next with the Safe Harbor Act and similar proposed legislation?
Now we wait.
Thirty states and the District of Columbia currently have laws on the books that legalize the use of medical marijuana, allowing patients across the country to benefit from adding mmj to their treatment plans. However, getting legislation passed that would give VA doctors more freedom to help veterans gain access to mmj may be a tough sell. Until then, veterans looking for a natural alternative to alleviate pain and discomfort may need to go through different channels.
Desert Rose Dispensary honors veterans with 15% off every purchase.
We believe that medicine should be accessible and affordable for all of our patients, and our former servicemembers are no exception. Veterans will receive a 15% discount on their medicine as our way of saying thank you for your service.
Desert Rose opened its doors in 2016 with the goal of putting patients first and enabling more patients to acquire medical marijuana that is pure, safe and effective while still being within their budget. Our knowledgeable and compassionate team members have experience working with veterans and promise a personalized and discreet dispensary experience.
We are open seven days a week from 8:00 AM to 7:00 PM for your convenience. Visit us at 24905 North 7th Avenue in Phoenix or call 623-516-7881.