WASHINGTON - For the first time, Veterans Health Administration doctors will be able to authorize medical marijuana use for patients.
Just one day before veterans marched to the White House to lobby for medical marijuana as a treatment for war trauma, the Senate passed legislation allowing doctors to discuss medical cannabis as a treatment option for patients in 23 states.
Wednesday's march began at D.C.'s Veterans Affairs Headquarters and headed down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House. As part of the protest, the group of veterans threw thousands of empty prescription pill bottles onto the sidewalk.
According to organizers, the bottles were collected from across the country in memory of those "whose sacrifices did not end on the battlefield."
Organizers said their goal was to raise awareness of dangerous prescription medications, which they say are often prescribed to treat war trauma. They say they're being unjustly deprived of cannabis therapy and with a current veteran suicide rate of 22 per day, it's time for the Veterans Administration to recognize that there are alternative forms of treatment available.
Before the new legislation, the Veterans Health Administration did not allow its physicians to discuss medical marijuana as an option for patients in states with medical cannabis laws, forcing veterans to turn elsewhere for guidance and the paperwork necessary to pursue treatment with the drug.
"We see this victory as a step toward a peace treaty with the government we volunteered to defend with our lives and as a step toward restoring our first amendment rights and dignity as citizens of the United States, " said TJ Thompson, a disabled Navy veteran said in a Drug Policy Alliance press release.
The Senate legislation won't change the federal illegality of using marijuana as medicine, but will allow veterans in states with medicinal marijuana legislation new options for the treatment of PTSD and other disabilities.