NEW YORK (MainStreet) - Despite major marijuana reform afoot post 2014 midterms, one group of traditional users continues to suffer although increasingly not in silence.
Veterans of the nation's wars from Vietnam forward have long found refuge in the wonders of medicinal marijuana for a host of both combat and stress related conditions including traumatic brain injury (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). These two intractable, complicated, physical conditions, which often exacerbate the psychological impact of war, are known as the "signature wounds" of the recent wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The impact is lifelong and highly debilitating. It is estimated that as much as 50% of the nation's vets suffer chronic pain. Six veterans a day commit suicide.
That said, veterans are also the demographic hardest hit by the slow pace of forward reform on particularly the medical cannabis front and as a result are beginning to speak out across the country. Veterans, unlike almost any other population, are bound by federal law at all points in their recovery and reintegration process and in some cases, for the rest of their lives. Testing positive for cannabis, even for those legally registered in state programs, can negatively affect veterans' health care benefits, student loans, jobs and even health benefits that many use to reintegrate more smoothly back into civilian life. Furthermore, even in states where medical marijuana is legal, VA doctors have frequently forced patients to choose between opiates and cannabis.
In 2011, the VA issued a directive stating that veterans who use state marijuana programs to help deal with pain management cannot lose their benefits and it is up to doctors and patients to craft an individualized treatment plan.