According to estimates by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder affects 31 percent of Vietnam veterans, 10 percent of Desert Storm vets, 11 percent of Afghanistan vets, and 20 percent of Iraqi war veterans. It's hard to comprehend the scope of that suffering - and a growing movement of ex-military, doctors, and researchers has been pushing to have cannabis recognized as a legitimate, low-side-effect treatment for PTSD.
This week, that fight took a promising, albeit preliminary, shift. On Nov.10, the U.S. Senate voted 18-12 to pass the FY2016 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs (MilCon-VA) Appropriations Bill. This means that
Veterans Administration (VA) doctors can now recommend medical marijuana to their patients in legal states.
Currently, the VA specifically prohibits its doctors from offering recommendations or opinion to their patients about state medical marijuana programs. This policy is unfair, says Michael Collins, Drug Policy Alliance deputy director of national affairs,
"Veterans in medical marijuana states should be treated the same as any other resident, and should be able to discuss marijuana with their doctor […] It makes no sense that a veteran can't use medical marijuana if it helps them and it is legal in their state."
Doctors must still be willing to prescribe it
But just because doctors are legally allowed to talk to vets about medical marijuana is no guarantee they'll actually do it. Some vets, however, remain cautiously optimistic.
"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.
Now, the bill must be negotiated as part of a more comprehensive omnibus spending bill to determine federal funding for the next fiscal year. Check out the video for a quick look at the bill and its potential impact.
Vubble | US veterans get new access to medical marijuana
The U.S. Senate passed a bill November 10, 2015, allowing Veterans Affairs doctors to recommend marijuana in states where it's legal. Studies have found that up to 20% of Iraq War veterans have PTSD -- and that marijuana can reduce symptoms by 75%.