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Veterans to Attorney General: Reschedule Cannabis

Former Attorney General Eric Holder speaks to his veteran constituents about rescheduling marijuana.

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Veterans to Attorney General: Reschedule Cannabis

Veterans from across the country, united under the banner of Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access, have delivered a legal petition to outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder requesting that he reschedule marijuana within the U.S. Controlled Substances Act.

“We implore you to use the unequivocal authority invested in you by Congress to make this petitioned change,” the document reads.

Petitions to reschedule cannabis are nothing new. The veterans acknowledge this, noting the DEA, “has been petitioned six times and brought to the federal appeals court four times.” This time, though, the veterans placed the onus directly on the Attorney General to make the decision with respect to rescheduling cannabis, by-passing the well-established roadblock maintained by the DEA.

The vets do appear to have broken some new ground by focusing their grievances more specifically on perceived violations of several amendments to the U.S. Constitution rather than arguing scientific merit. Citing the current Veterans’ Administration (VA) policy that prohibits VA providers from “completing forms seeking recommendations or opinions regarding a veteran’s participation in a state marijuana program,” the veterans write, “this prohibition ensures no doctor within the VA healthcare system is able to discuss the benefits and risks of this important treatment option with their patients.” That, say the petitioners, is a violation of the First Amendment right to free speech.

Additionally, the petition states that veterans are denied rights secured by the Fifth Amendment (the right against self-incrimination) because the VA policy makes it clear that even cannabis possession authorized by the state in which the veteran resides will be considered a violation of federal law. Thus, a veteran will be unlikely to share information about medical cannabis use with a VA health provider.

Finally, the petition’s authors focus on the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection under law.

“It’s immoral and unjust for veterans residing in ‘legal’ states to have safe access, while those living in states without medical marijuana programs face relocation or incarceration,” the petition argues. “The 14th Amendment guarantees equal protection under the law — treatment based on geographical location is not equal treatment of veterans under the law.”

The petition reminds the Attorney General of his authority and ability under law to reschedule drugs. It also summarizes the convoluted state of Controlled Substances scheduling, noting that one of the major psychoactive components of marijuana, delta-9 THC, is listed in Schedule II and the pharmaceutical drug Marinol, which is nothing more than delta-9 THC and sesame oil, is Schedule III.

The veterans signing the petition are from five states, four of which have legal medical cannabis programs. Ricardo Pereyda, an army vet from Arizona, shared that the petition idea grew from a conversation he had with Michael Krawitz, the director of Veterans for Medical Cannabis and an Air Force veteran living in Virginia.

“We were talking about the problem of scheduling and how it related to the chain of command,” he said. “It seemed backwards to us that DEA was always ruling on this when the authority is given to the AG.”

Eric Holder is well known for his more sympathetic attitudes with respect to medical cannabis. In April 2014, Holder announced the Obama Administration would look at the issue of rescheduling cannabis but “only with the support of Congress.”  Eighteen members of Congress had sent a letter to Holder in February 2014 asking that he remove cannabis from Schedule I.

Holder recently announced his retirement, but remains in office while his successor prepares for congressional confirmation hearings. Whether he will be courageous enough to take action on the latest petition to reschedule cannabis remains to be seen.

Are you a veteran that uses cannabis to medicate? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Mark Priest

    December 5, 2014 at 9:11 am

    I am a disabled veteran who has gone through over 10 years of active duty and VA “treatment” having taken nearly every form of PTSD/major depression/pain/ anxiety and sleep medications that are in their arsenal. I usually wind up at the maximums “safe” dosage for several months before I refuse to continue and demand something else. The packets of pills always come with 5-10 sheets of microprinted information about side effects, dangers, and sometimes warnings of addictive properties. …and they keep coming! There is no concern for my internal organs or even the effectiveness of the 10 pills a day I’m being forced to take. I say “forced” because when I try to stand up for myself and cut out a regimen I usually have to get back on it because of withdrawals! Very saddening! WHY must I consider leaving all of my family, friends and history in the south just because I was born there and not a “legal” location? How is that right?! I served my country as U.S. Army Officer. I never expected or gave special treatment. I acted with integrity and compassion for who ever needed it regardless of personality or rank. (“…I perceive that God is no respecter of persons”- Acts 10:34). I just want the same freedoms that other get, and that’s not happening down here.

  2. Randell

    November 23, 2014 at 1:01 pm

    I am active duty who would like to be ablr to use cannabis to treat insominia, anxiety, and depresion. I applaud the efforts of the veterans who once served in defence of our country and now serve in the defence of the civil rights of not only veterans but every citizen of our great country. I’m not sure where to start but I know that isreal allows active duty personnel to consume cannabis. I would love to see our country adopt similar standards of treatment.

  3. Msgt Vance

    November 23, 2014 at 8:23 am

    The results of the National Vietnam Veteran Longitudinal Study presented at the American Psychology Association convention on August 8 2014 show there are 283,000 active cases of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder among Vietnam Veterans. Earlier this year, during the Kentucky Assembly Interim Session Joint Hearing of the Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection Committee held July 10, 2014, focusing on Veteran PTSD cases, 3 representatives from the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Louisville who work extensively with Veteran PTSD patients testified. They reported that there are 350,000 cases of PTSD among Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans. VA Guidelines for PTSD call for psychotherapy ranging from counseling and group therapy to exposure and cognitive therapies. These are educational therapies that would help in most mental health situations. Then they went on to list the drugs. Drugs with familiar names such as Paxil and Zoloft, Klonopin, Xanax and Prozac were named. They listed antidepressants, mood stabilizers, atypical antipsychotics, anticonvulsants, anxiolytics and sleep aids, not to mention the various pain medications as many of these Veterans also suffer from physical as well as mental pain. They went on to say there is no medication that works for PTSD. The reported cases of PTSD totaling 633,000, does not include Korean, Gulf War or any Veterans of the small engagements of the Cold War.
    Veterans suffering from PTSD that live in States having medical cannabis laws are using cannabis as treatment for their condition. These Veterans as reported by groups such as Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access (VMAC), relate stories of relief from many of the symptoms of PTSD. Many claim medical cannabis has allowed them the first decent night’s sleep since the onset of their PTSD and rely on it as their main and perhaps only effective medication. Indeed, Veterans applying for the New Mexico Medical Cannabis program report a 70% reduction in symptoms when using medical cannabis.
    What should be done? Considering that, Veterans in medical cannabis States are using medical cannabis with great success and that almost half the States currently have medical cannabis laws and that the number of cases of PTSD among Veterans is of epidemic proportions, we call on the Veterans Administration to begin immediately to provide medical whole plant cannabis to Veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
    Currently the Federal Government provides tins of medical cannabis to survivors of the old Compassionate Care Program. These patients receive a tin of 300 cannabis cigarettes every month and it would be quite simple to expand this program to Veterans living in States without medical cannabis laws. For Veterans in medical cannabis States the VA could simply do a voucher with the local Cannabis Pharmacies to provide the medicine these Veterans sorely need.
    We also call on the VA to immediately begin a study of the effectiveness of medical cannabis in treating the many symptoms of PTSD. Dr. Sue Sisley of the University of Arizona has managed to clear every hurdle placed in front of her in her quest to do a PTSD study of Veterans and cannabis. For the first time in 77 years the Government is actually providing the cannabis! Certainly if a civilian can shepherd a cannabis study through every hurdle placed in front of it by the Federal Government, then the Veterans Administration, a branch of the Federal Government should be able to!
    Cannabis is currently listed as Schedule1, Dangerous and having no medical value. This rating was temporary in 1970 when the Controlled Substances Act was passed and it is still temporary to this day. A simple rescheduling of cannabis to Schedule 2 or lower, which can be accomplished by a signature of the President or Attorney General, would allow the Veterans Administration to provide this desperately needed medicine to the heroes who undoubtedly deserve it.
    There is plenty that can be done! We call on the President, Congress, the Attorney General and the Veterans Administration to, ‘Git to doing it!’

  4. Tim Zorza

    November 22, 2014 at 9:35 pm

    Living in the Bible belt, Atlanta GA, I have a totally pinched nerve in L5. I hate pain pills, and I find smoking it helps better than any of the pain pills they gave me. I’m not going to get into my struggle to get more prompt care, but I wish they would at least make medical Marijuana legal in every state. Just legalize it Mr. Holder, I think alcohol is a much worse drug.

    • Mark Priest

      December 5, 2014 at 9:22 am

      Thanks for sharing Tim.
      The VA wont give me opiates because of my history of being hospitalized for suicidality and PTSD. That’s fine with me since I don’t want them! I had a disorienting flashback that resulted in a broken hand and head injury that the VA didn’t even LOOK at when I walked into a clinic bloody and swollen! Literally. Now the bone in my hand didn’t grow back together and it hurts like a summb*tch. On top of that Awful sciatic pain that keeps me laid up a lot has only gotten me “tramadol”.. (*recently moved to controlled substances list by the DEA). They cant say they don’t believe in controlled or addictive substances. I have the paperwork warning me about it that came from them! It might as well be aspirin, but I am trying to avoid “old natural” even though its the only thing that addresses so many of my issues at once. GA sucks sometimes, but I don’t really want to leave everything I care about. Its a screwed up situation, and not one that people in other parts of the country have to make. They don’t understand how lucky they are to be born in another state.

  5. Matt

    November 22, 2014 at 5:59 pm

    All for it, would be extremely beneficial and morally the right thing to do for myself and all my brothers and sisters, past, present, and future, in order to strongly assist us who suffer from chronic pain, ptsd, tbi, etc, etc, etc, in living a much, much, greater life.

  6. Joe

    November 22, 2014 at 1:47 pm

    I am a combat veteran with chronic Trigeminal Neuralgia(facial Nerve pain) and PTSD. I have been using cannabis off and on when my prescribed meds don’t handle things or their side effects cause more harm to me than benefit.

    I am also a former cop that would like to mention that I never had an call of cannabis being involved in a domestic violence call. However, we all know alcohol is a primer for bad things to happen.

    Lastly, the fact that nobody has ever died from cannabis is something to remember when cannabis can and does reduce suicide rates. So if it doesn’t kill anyone and it is credited with saving peoples lives..WHY IS IT ILLEGAL?!?!?!? IT IS A PRO-LIFE SUBSTANCE!!!

  7. lee johnson cmps

    November 22, 2014 at 7:03 am

    As a a VET and an employee of the VA Hospital, I really do believe that medicinal cannabis will solve several issues. !. It would help alleviate addictions to the popular medications like Oxycodone, Hydrocodone and other opiods 2. Alcoholism would decrease and be less prevalent, 3. It would lessen the symptoms of PTSD such as reoccurring nightmares. and anger and in turn lessen the tax payer burden for substance abuse treatment. I have to wonder why our government reps are dragging their feet on this. We really should make these lawmakers take regular BA & UDS. I guarantee we’d have to fire a lot of politicians.

  8. Mark E Ketchledge

    November 21, 2014 at 9:19 pm

    I have recently been diagnosed with the beginning stages of glaucoma, my qualifier. I immediately asked my eye doctor about medical marijuana and he replied, “we use drops”. Wait ’til I see him on the 26th and tell him that I refuse to put any pharma-chemicals in my eyes. I read somewhere that the VA was the first federal entity to OK the use of mmj. We in New Jersey have had a signed medical marijuana law for 5 years now, but our Gov Fatass Christie won’t allow any dispensaries to open.

  9. David Beverage

    November 21, 2014 at 6:55 pm

    This would be amazing its so hard living in a non-legal state it would help my PTSD my TBI and pain I have so please do something.

    • Mark Priest

      December 5, 2014 at 9:27 am

      David, I’m sorry you’re dealing with those problems and cant legally get what may help. I’m in the same situation. The only thing I can think to do is either go where you need to go, even if for a year or two, until the place you call home allows it there also. I’ve already been to jail for trying to provide for myself out of desperation, feeling at the end of my rope. Believe me the rope keeps going both ways. We just have to speak out and let our voices be heard and maintain the image that not all cannabis “needers” are degenerate potheads. That’s the main problem with voters- a messed up image that veterans can help to change. God bless you man. We’ll get through this!

  10. Greg

    November 21, 2014 at 3:56 pm

    I am a veteran and refuse to take the medication given to me by the VA I don’t take pills. I smoke to help me take the daily stress away, my neck pain is also relieved I am 70 percent disabled due to PTSD. I believe it helps me better than any other forms of medication.

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