Veterans Speak Out for State Medical Marijuana Programs

Amid a national crisis of suicides and opioid abuse by those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, more and more veterans are turning to cannabis for a more benign form of relief—and demanding legal recognition of their right to do so.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) largely remains intransigent on allowing access to cannabis. There have been efforts on Capitol Hill to address the dilemma. The most recent is the VA Medical Cannabis Research Act of 2021, which would at least mandate that the VA study use of cannabis as a treatment for chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other ailments that disproportionately pose challenges for veterans. It was approved on Nov. 5 by the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. But the VA itself continues to oppose the measure.

The first crack in the VA’s anti-cannabis dogma came in December 2017, when the Department issued Directive 1315. This states: “Veterans will not be denied VA benefits because of marijuana use.” Yet veterans are still being punished for cannabis use, denied benefits through loopholes in the Directive.

The most significant of these is that it only applies to veterans who are actually enrolled in state medical marijuana programs. So veterans not living in one of those 36 states that have established such programs still risk a cutoff of benefits if they use cannabis—even if for the exact same reasons as their card-holding brethren.

Not surprisingly, then, vets are getting vocal in support of pending state medical marijuana measures.

Retired Marine Calls for Medical Program in Tar Heel State 

In North Carolina, one of those remaining 14 hold-out states, Senate Bill 711, or the Compassionate Care Act, would legalize medical marijuana for patients with chronic illnesses. Retired US Marine Corps Sgt. George J. Papastrat in the town of Jacksonville is among those speaking out for its passage. 

Papastrat admits he was a reluctant believer in the medicinal value of cannabis. “You know…in 15 years in the Marine Corps, the thought really never even crossed my mindthat would necessarily be an option. Until, you know, the pain got real,” he told local WNCT last month.

Papastrat medically retired from the Marine Corps in 2016, suffering from back issues that led him to get a lumbar fusion. He told WNCT he had to take opioids for his pain just to be able to function.  

“I was taking opioids on active duty. And then for about three or four years after the fusion, I was taking opioid pain relievers, and that was just to make it so I could stand up, sit down…daily tasks with my children,” Papastrat said.

Papastrat is originally from New York, which has had a limited medical marijuana program since 2014, he it was there that he decided to try cannabis—and found that it worked for him. Since moving to North Carolina, he’s been in a state with no such program. So he’s been reaching out to lawmakers with his story.  

“We’re not talking about letting people run around and do drugs,” he assured WNCT. “I’m a local business owner veteran that stayed here and supports my community. And I’m just asking for a fair shake of something other than an opioid.”

The NC Compassionate Care Act would allow use of cannabis with a doctor’s recommendation for conditions such as cancer, epilepsy and PTSD. It would create a new body within the state Department of Health & Human Services empowered issue 10 licenses to companies that could operate up to four dispensaries each. It has already made it through several committees in the state house, but is not expected to go to a floor vote until 2022.

Iraq Experience Follows Vet Home to Texas

The voices of veterans played a role in the recent passage of a law expanding the existing but heretofore harshly limited medical program in Texas.

David Bass, a Desert Storm veteran living in the central Texas town of Killeen, Texas, credits cannabis as critical to his ongoing recovery from PTSD. He served 25 years in the Army and was did a tour of duty in Iraq starting in 2004. 

“It was heavy fighting the entire time that the First Cavalry Division was deployed to Iraq. We took some serious casualties,” he recalled to Spectrum News last month, adding that he got through it by focusing on his dream of a making good life back home in Texas. “This is what I dreamed about in Iraq: a place where I could just relax safely, everything’s quiet and peaceful and I don’t have to worry about a rocket falling out of the sky.”

But for those who have survived combat, the simple life is often not so simple. Even back in the safety of Texas, he was having nightmares, outbursts of anger, and vivid flashbacks—the classic symptoms of PTSD. He sought medical treatment—but found that it actually ended up doing more harm. 

“It’s ironic that a side effect of some psychotropic pills is suicidal ideation, and they’re supposed to be helping post-traumatic stress disorder,” Bass said.

Spectrum News reports that Bass became aware of cannabis as an alternative treatment after searching online and finding a community of vets going back to the Vietnam War who have been using the herb to treat PTSD.

“The choice was cannabis or the pill, and we chose cannabis,” he said, stressing that he chose to do so reluctantly, as this was before Texas passed its limited medical marijuana law in 2015. Since then, he’s been pushing for expansion of that program, by sharing his story with lawmakers. 
These efforts paid off on June 16 of this year, when Gov. Greg Abbott signed House Bill 1535, which adds PTSD to the list of ailments covered by the Texas Compassionate Use Program (TCUP). The measure also raises the cap on THC from 0.5 to one percent. Until now, the TCUP had been a “CBD-only” program. Raising the THC cap to 1% brings it just barely into the range of a psychoactive effect. 

The new law took effect on Sept. 1. But Bass emphasized to Spectrum News that he remains hopeful further expansion of the program is on the way.

The post Veterans Speak Out for State Medical Marijuana Programs appeared first on Cannabis Now.

Medical Cannabis Bill Clears North Carolina Senate Judiciary Committee

A bill in the North Carolina state senate just cleared the state senate judiciary committee. If it becomes law, medical cannabis could become legal in the state. 

State Senate Bill 711, or the NC Compassionate Care Act, is the state’s latest attempt. North Carolina is one of the only states left in the U.S. that still doesn’t even have at least a medical program. 

On July 21, the bill passed the judiciary committee and was sent to the Senate Health Care committee. It was then removed from that committee and sent back to the judiciary committee on August 4 for more amendments and technical changes requested by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

The bill is being sponsored by Bill Rabon, a Republican from Brunswick. Some of the changes being made are also based on regulations made in Utah to a similar bill. Revisions include adding a new category for folks with terminal illnesses and less than six months to live, prohibition on smoking or vaping at school or in the workplace or house of worship, an identification card program for those who get prescribed medical cannabis and specific operating hours for dispensaries. 

Still, the bill does not have a free and clear path yet. The Senate Health Care committee will be tough to pass, and the House is expected to give some pushback as well. 

North Carolina Pushes Through

However, analysts do think the bill has a good chance of clearing the senate, since Rabon is also chairman of the Rules and Operations Committee. Also sponsoring the bill are Senators Paul Lowe, D-Forsyth and Michael Lee, R-New Hanover.

If passed, funding for the bill would come from license fees and a monthly fee that equals 10 percent of gross revenue from cannabis sales. This would be different from other legal states. 

“There really are no projections on how many North Carolinians will be eligible, and there is no best-practice legislation to look at,” Lee said. “Once we have a determination on how many people actually have the conditions that are specified in the bill, then we can determine costs and revenue.”

Those supporting the bill claim it should pass because it is still very restrictive, and therefore shouldn’t raise alarms for those nervous about legalization. Senator Wally Nickel, D-Wake, called it “the most conservative and restrictive medical marijuana bill in the country.”

“This bill is narrowly tailored to offer medical marijuana to those with legitimate medical needs,” Nickel said.

To support its passing, the bill also claims that  “modern medical research has found that cannabis and cannabinoid compounds are effective at alleviating pain, nausea and other symptoms associated with several debilitating medical conditions.”

Some still have concerns about legalizing medically, despite all this. The Reverend Mark Creech of the Christian Action League claims that marijuana should be taxed similarly to tobacco and alcohol, rather than as a prescription drug. He worries about a black market emerging from the legal, medical cannabis centers.

But Rabon, a Republican and cancer survivor, disagrees. And Lee, who does not support recreational cannabis, also backs up the reasoning for needing a medical market. 

“Recreational marijuana use is not something we want in our state,” Lee said.

“We realized that, for some states, it has worked out well, while for others it was just a recreational product,” Lowe said regarding the bill. “That’s not the goal with this particular bill in our state.”

The bill has also been amended to reduce the number of medical centers from eight to four, in order to further impose control on the industry. If this bill does pass, it will still be very restrictive, but relief to cannabis patients will finally be in sight. 

The post Medical Cannabis Bill Clears North Carolina Senate Judiciary Committee appeared first on High Times.

Episode 372 – The New Cannabis Workplace

Betty Aldworth and Heather Sullivan join first-time host Brian Adams to talk about the evolution of marijuana use by workers, the push to drive social equity through delivery licensing, and possible revisions to medical marijuana laws in states like Colorado. Produced by Shea Gunther.

Photo: Hugo Chisholm/Flickr

Friday, February 12, 2021 Headlines | Marijuana Today Daily News

Marijuana Today Daily Headlines
Friday, February 12, 2021 | Curated by host Shea Gunther

// Virginia Marijuana Legalization Bill Takes Another Step Toward Finish Line (Marijuana Moment (Center Square))

// Colorado Marijuana Sales Almost Hit $2.2 Billion in 2020 (Denver Westword)

// South Dakota governor to delay medical cannabis program until 2022 (Marijuana Business Daily)

These headlines are brought to you by Atlantic Farms, a Maine-based multistate cannabis business with operations in Maine and Massachusetts. Atlantic Farms is looking for people to help it grow and evolve as investors. Open up for more on the company and email to learn about investment opportunities.

// Colorado awards first adult-use cannabis delivery license (Marijuana Business Daily)

// Cannabis MSO Green Thumb nets $100M through initial US stock sale (Marijuana Business Daily)

// Columbia Care Raises C$25 Million Primarily From Single Institutional Investor (New Cannabis Ventures)

// Canopy Growth Records $829 Net Loss In Third Quarter (Green Market Report)

// Aurora Cannabis Reports $292 Million Net Loss Even As Revenue Rises (Green Market Report)

// Marijuana Legalization Has Majority Support In North Carolina Poll Finds (Marijuana Moment)

// Weed stocks tank as Reddit trade loses momentum (CNBC)

Check out our other projects:Marijuana Today— Our flagship title, a weekly podcast examining the world of marijuana business and activism with some of the smartest people in the industry and movement. • Marijuana Media Connect— A service that connects industry insiders in the legal marijuana industry with journalists, bloggers, and writers in need of expert sources for their stories.

Love these headlines? Love our podcast? Support our work with a financial contribution and become a patron.

Photo: imageMatters1/Flickr