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Guest column: In support of medical marijuana for vets

in Opinion

Wisconsin is home to thousands of military veterans. Unfortunately, veterans have a disproportionately high rate of certain debilitating medical conditions as compared to the general population. 

The Veterans Health Administration treats many of the veterans dealing with health issues with opioid pain medications. Unfortunately, this sometimes leads to abuse, addiction and even fatal overdose. But, the VA and Attorney General Brad Schimel recently announced that they will give veterans a “Dose of Reality.” A rather ominous name for this campaign, and rightly so.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice may not know much about pain management but they intend to work with the VA to “give military veterans and active service members, and their families, the tools and resources to prevent opioid abuse.” They boast that the VA has made significant progress in reducing opioid prescribing. Unfortunately, the VA has resisted making all recommended alternative treatments available to veterans.

Cannabis has been found to help many patients suffering from conditions that can afflict veterans as a result of their service, including chronic pain, cancer, ALS, traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorders and phantom limb pain. In 2017, all major veterans service organizations in Wisconsin passed a number of resolutions on health care, including one supporting medical cannabis for veterans with a doctors recommendation. AG Shimel and Wisconsin government continues to ignore the veterans’ position.

“Support for medical cannabis, and research on medical cannabis is high across veterans and caregivers, all age ranges, gender, political leanings and geography,” according to an American Legion survey of its members. The survey found bipartisan support for legalizing medicinal marijuana, with 88 percent of self-identified conservatives and 90 percent of self-identified liberals in agreement.

Simply restricting opioid prescriptions sometimes results in unintended negative outcomes, namely increased use of heroin or other drugs with uncertified purity and potency. However, the Journal of Internal Medicine published two studies that conclude that medical cannabis use has the potential to reduce opioid prescriptions.

Dr. Jeffrey A. Singer, a Phoenix surgeon and a senior fellow at the Cato Institute observed that, “The number one cause of drug deaths is drug prohibition. We need to change from a war on drugs to a war on drug deaths.”

Instead of “fighting” opioids, how about offering hurting veterans a dose of medical cannabis, like other states around us are doing?

Jim Maas
Vietnam veteran residing in Weston, Wisconsin

Editor’s note: The views of our readers are independent of this newspaper and do not necessarily reflect the views of Wausau Pilot and Review. To submit a letter, email editor@wausaupilotandreview.com or mail to P.O. Box 532, Wausau, Wis., 54402-0532. Letters of any length are welcome and must include your name, city, and contact information for verification. Anonymous letters are not published.

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