* Please read & sign the open letter below…
The Veterans Equal Access Act was a bipartisan bill introduced in the House of Representatives that would have allowed doctors with the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs to recommend medicinal cannabis for Veterans living in states with medicinal cannabis laws. On April 30, 2015, the bill was narrowly defeated by a vote of 210-213.
“This decision is not only a signal of great disrespect to United States citizens who have risked their lives to protect our country, but will directly contribute to more needless suicides which already claim at least 22 Veteran lives a day.” – Lcdr Al Byrne, SC, USN Ret; Veterans For Compassionate Care
The absurd fear surrounding the use of cannabis by Veterans is completely unfounded. Veterans are routinely prescribed a wide variety of addictive anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications that are not directly FDA-approved for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), yet it happens anyway. These pharmaceuticals do not address the underlying symptoms of PTSD and can make things worse.
The science supporting the use of medicinal cannabis for PTSD is remarkably strong. A 2013 study from an Italian university recommended targeting the endocannabinoid system as a treatment for PTSD given the system’s role in regulating emotion and memory. Specifically, the authors suggested pharmacologically increasing endocannabinoid content, stating such a strategy “may be an ideal therapeutic approach to simultaneously treat the emotional and cognitive features of PTSD.”
Cannabidiol (CBD) treatment is an effective way to increase endocannabinoid levels, and in a double-blind study was shown to alleviate schizophrenia at least partially through this effect. Furthermore, both tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and CBD have shown promise in reducing fearful memories, which is one of the top causes of PTSD symptoms.
Dr. Sue Sisley, who has been trying to conduct formal clinical trials for years, understands the importance of providing alternative options to patients, especially when conventional treatments have failed. “Part of being a good physician is notifying your patients about all available treatment options and adhering to the highest standards of care.” With so many Veteran suicides every day, no one can make the argument we are currently providing the highest standards of care.
The reports are already pouring in…
What really matters is what actual Veterans are reporting. We have previously shared stories of people like Chad Lozano and Jasmine Miller who use cannabis to mitigate their symptoms. Many other Veterans have become leaders in promoting medicinal cannabis.
Michael Krawitz, an Air Force Veteran, works with Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access to fight for change and educate others. Perry Parks is a Vietnam veteran with 28 years of service who says cannabis helps him more than any pharmaceuticals. He has quickly risen to a leadership role in the movement, appearing at numerous medicinal cannabis conferences.
To dismiss the scientific and anecdotal evidence is not just wrong, it is dangerous, cruel, and undeniably evil. Allowing people to risk their lives and undergo unimaginable trauma, just to deny them the medicine they say works for them, is despicable. As a country we should not and will not stand for it.
The following is a letter addressed to all members of the House that voted “NO” on the The Veterans Equal Access Act.
Please read & sign below to show your support:
We are writing this letter to provide you with a Veteran’s perspective on what exactly your no vote on the MIL-CON VA Equal Access Amendment has on our military families across the country.
First, let us say that we are thoroughly disgusted that you will not, in the very least, allow Veterans to consult their Veterans Health Administration (VHA) physicians about a potentially safer alternative to the dangerous pharmaceuticals which have been wreaking havoc on our community. We want to know why.
Why have you voted to keep Veterans, their spouses, children, family members and friends suffering?
As Veterans, we have experience with the effects of post-traumatic stress. We know the impact this age old warrior wound has had on our community. You would know too if you cared to look into the matter.
– The bill you voted against would have authorized VHA doctors to begin an honest conversation with Veterans that may have concluded in recommending cannabis.
– The bill you voted against would have definitively allowed those of us who rely on the VHA for our healthcare to become cannabis patients in states where it is legal.
– The bill you voted against would have finally allowed us to disclose cannabis therapy to the VHA, without fear of reprisal.
Your actions deny us the ability to be honest and open with our own physicians about what is helping us. They already know what’s hurting us.
Right now we are forced to seek treatment outside of the Veterans Affairs (VA) system. We have to consult doctors who don’t know us, who oftentimes know nothing of the military or the unique experiences of its members. More often than not, we will never see the same doctor twice, so there will be no follow-up to discuss whether cannabis is working or not. Meanwhile, we are stuck in a position where we have to continue lying to our VA primary care physicians.
What happens when you have a Veteran with a 100% Service connected disability rating from the VHA who gets arrested for 2 ounces of cannabis in a non-medical state? You’ve just successfully turned that Veteran into a felon!
With respect to many of the current generation of warriors, you’re talking about individuals and families who have lived on a razor’s edge for numerous deployments. You’re talking about someone who volunteered to risk the safety and security of themselves and their family in order to protect the freedoms and ideals we hold dear in this country. We risk going to jail/prison, losing our jobs, our kids, our benefits and many other horrible realities.
The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is preparing to select Veteran candidates to participate as volunteers in their federally approved research, which will examine the safety and efficacy of cannabis as a treatment for post-traumatic stress. The study that MAPS has been attempting to implement for five years continues to be thwarted by shortsighted Phoenix VA hospital administrators who refuse to even allow objective information about the study to be conveyed to their VA medical staff in the form of a grand Rounds lecture.
As it stands, we can’t even talk to the VA about scientific research! The very information you so-called leaders say you want. Recently, the Director of Medical Research at the Phoenix VA denied Dr. Suzanne Sisley the opportunity to present her study as an option for Veteran patients suffering from treatment-resistant post-traumatic stress. She was allowed to pursue the preparation of her research when nobody expected it to see the light of day, but now that it is so close to being implemented the powers-that-be have drawn the iron curtain. This happened despite her study being very well received by the VA Medical Staff.
We believe we have earned the right to safe access and compassionate care, and that our families deserve what’s best for them. Right now there are people like yourself making decisions without listening to us and our pleads for equal treatment. Research conducted outside of the United States has shown cannabis to be extremely effective in addressing the symptoms of post-traumatic stress. Despite this quality research, you dismiss it because there has been no federally approved research conducted within our borders, and you maintain that medicinal cannabis is far too dangerous for us and our families.
You had a golden opportunity to finally support our Veterans and open the door to honest dialogue about the potential risks and benefits of cannabis. This bill would have enabled true informed consent and free discourse between a VA physician and their Veteran-patient. Part of being a good physician is notifying your patients of ALL available treatment options, ensuring they are fully informed and adhering to the highest standards of care. Modern day science tells us that cannabis is nontoxic and far safer than many of the addictive pharmaceutical narcotics prescribed to Veterans every day. It is possible for a Veteran to overdose and die from literally any conventional medication prescribed. It is physically impossible to die from a cannabis overdose.
If we know there is a plant that has the capacity to reduce human suffering and is being forced to sit on the shelf, barred from research into efficacy, don’t physicians have a duty to denounce this? Don’t they/you have a duty to our Veterans to demand that this plant be tested in a rigorous, controlled environment? Since all efforts to research this plant have been impeded by our federal government, the least you could do is allow for honest conversation in private appointments between a VA doctor and their patient.
Instead of just pummeling us with relentless prescriptions, we could have began a reasonable conversation about a legitimate alternative treatment. Instead we are stuck with the same status quo: running through the gauntlet of every single FDA approved medicine on the market. Ending up on 10 or 12 different prescriptions to control an illness that seems to be managed adequately with simple monotherapy of cannabis. We absolutely need more data, but the current research suggests that this plant is a decent treatment option. There’s a reason the federal governments in Canada and Israel provide marijuana to their military Veterans and even subsidize it!
Rest assured, the Veterans who fought in combat are thrilled with your attempts to babysit us once we get back home. You could be right, cannabis could be more dangerous than roadside bombs, suicide bombers and snipers… but the real-life evidence suggests you are wrong. We also know cannabis is safer than pharmaceuticals. This is a fact made clear by just examining the amount of people who have died using cannabis or pharmaceutical medicines. In addition, through research and actually speaking with Veterans, many report that cannabis is more effective, more agreeable, and less dangerous than anything they previously used.
Our military families need help fast. What we have been asking for, what we are demanding, is your support. We expect the same freedoms and the same rights as the American civilians we fought for.
Signed – 01 May 2015,
Ricardo Pereyda; Tucson, Arizona, Army Veteran
Sean Kiernan; San Diego, California, Army Veteran
Kevin Spence; Phoenix, Arizona, Navy Veteran
And also the undersigned:
Sign this letter and let your voice be heard…