Medical marijuana debate makes some strange bedfellows

Monday, November 27, 2017

You’ll find reasonable people taking either side of the legalized marijuana question, and as a state bordering Colorado, Nebraska is on the front lines of the political debate.

Federal law still outlaws marijuana, but politics, as they say, makes strange bedfellows.

For instance, one of the most traditional, patriotic organizations is advocating the use of marijuana, albeit under specific, limited circumstances.

The American Legion is pressing the federal government to let Department of Veterans Affairs doctors recommend medical marijuana, where it is already legal, in treating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. That’s a remarkable step for the century-old, 2.2-million-member, law-and-order group.

“When veterans come to us and say a particular treatment is working for them, we owe it to them to listen and to do scientific research required,” said Legion Executive Director Verno Jones.

The Legion is only the latest veterans group to advocate marijuana for PTSD.

The District of Columbia and 28 states already include PTSD in their medical marijuana programs, and while Alaska doesn’t, it allows everyone over 20 to purchase marijuana legally. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Veterans Day that he would sign legislation to allow marijuana as a PTSD treatment.

While more research may be needed on the safety and effectiveness of marijuana in treating PTSD and other maladies, there’s no question opioids, anti-anxiety pills and other medications have addictive qualities and other unwanted side effects.

And there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that justifies more study. Retired Marine Staff Sgt. Mark DiPasquale told the Associated Press that medical marijuana freed him from 17 opioids and other drugs, as well as migraines, PTSD and other injuries.

“I just felt like a zombie, and I wanted to hurt somebody,” says DiPasquale, a co-founder of the Rochester-based Veterans Cannabis Collective Foundation.

“Do I still have PTSD? Absolutely,” said DiPasquale, 42. But “I'm back to my old self. I love people again.”

The Trump administration opposes any type of marijuana legalization, and any attempt to legalize medical or recreational marijuana faces entrenched attitudes and legal barriers in place for many decades.

But we owe it to veterans who suffer from PTSD, and others who might find relief from marijuana, to have that chance.

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