As people have moved to cannabis-friendly states in search of the medicinal herb they need, they’ve picked up the nickname “marijuana refugees.” It seems that the latest group of people to fall into this category are wounded war veterans. The current wave of vets moving to other places in search of medical cannabis is the result of new legislation that makes it possible for Veterans Administration (VA) doctors to recommend medicinal marijuana to their patients.
Last month the Senate passed the new bill, which is called the FY2016 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Bill; it’s now awaiting approval from the House.
“Veterans in medical marijuana states should be treated the same as any other resident, and should be able to discuss marijuana with their doctor,” said Michael Collins, deputy director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance.
“It makes no sense that a veteran can’t use medical marijuana if it helps them and it is legal in their state.”
Before the bill, “the Department of Veterans Affairs expressly prohibited its medical providers from completing forms brought by their patients seeking recommendations or opinions regarding participation in a state medical marijuana program,” the Drug Policy Alliance explained.
Now that VA doctors can now openly discuss and recommend medical marijuana to their patients, many wounded vets have found that having access to medical cannabis is important enough to make them move from their homes to states where it is legal.
One woman, the wife of a retired Army Green Beret, told Military.com that being able to use medical marijuana is so important to her and her husband that they’re planning to leave their longtime home in North Carolina—where medical marijuana is still illegal—to a place where they can readily access it.
According to the website, “her husband served 26 years on active duty before he was medically retired because of the mental and physical injuries he racked up during a career that included more than 50 combat missions.”
His doctors initially put him on a cocktail of drugs that included Ambien, Propranolol, Botox injections, Tramadol, Treximet, Oxycodone, and Fentanyl.
After he had begun developing kidney problems, fatty liver, and gastrointestinal tract erosion as a result of all the drugs, he turned to cannabis, which helped him significantly reduce a number of pills he had to take and allowed him to stop taking certain meds entirely.
Another veteran told the same source that he’d been illegally using marijuana to treat the traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) he suffers as a result of his time in the military.
“Using marijuana saved my life,” he said. “There is no way I would take meds for my entire life. I would end it first because the side effects of pharmaceuticals are as painful as the pain you’re trying to get rid of.”
He, too, is planning to move to a state where his VA doctor can help him legally obtain medicinal cannabis.
Of course, we could tell countless other stories about wounded veterans who are unable to receive the medicine they need. Fortunately, with the new bill moving forward, it’s now becoming easier for vets to access medical marijuana—as long as they can get to a state that allows them to buy it.
If the current trend continues, medical marijuana states can expect to see an influx of veterans moving in throughout the coming year.