A mound of empty prescription bottles was piled in front of the White House on Veterans Day as part of a protest against the overmedication of vets, and their lack of access to treatment with medical marijuana. Vets and marijuana advocates who took part in the event hope to convince President Barack Obama and members of Congress to support the Veterans Equal Access Amendment which was tacked onto the current Department of Veterans Affairs appropriations bill.
The amendment would allow VA health care providers to explore medical marijuana options for patients in the 23 states where such treatment is in fact legal. Current laws prohibit VA practitioners from recommending, or even discussing, medical marijuana with their patients because the federal status of pot is still: illigal – despite insurmountable scientific evidence that marijuana has greatly positive benefits when used as a medication.
The Veterans Day protest began in the park at McPherson Square where several dozen people camped out next to a display of 22 small American flags set up to symbolize the number of daily suicides among veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and other combat-related health problems. Each flag was surrounded by empty pill bottles to underscore the VA health care system’s rampart use of psychoactive drugs and addictive pain medications. The vets marched from McPherson Park to the headquarters of the Department of Veterans Affairs before heading to their final stop at the White House, where they dumped their load of empty prescription bottles.
While they marched many of the vets toked up and ripped hard marching along and sippin’ on Mary-Jane smoke to really drive their point forward. Many of the protesters were vets who had tossed their VA prescriptions and opted instead for medical marijuana because of it’s effectiveness in treating some of the psychological problems vets face in life behind the front lines. They say cannabis effectively treats their health problems and spares them the disabling side effects of prescription medications like anti-depressants.
According a New Mexico-based study published earlier this year in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, cannabis significantly eased the major symptoms associated with PTSD. Although the doctors who conducted the study called for continued research, patients who participated reported a 75 percent reduction in intrusive memories, flashbacks, anxiety and other symptoms. Reliable statistics on PTSD among vets have been elusive partly because more than half of all cases go unreported, but now that we have a plant that can be smoked as a medicine to potentially treat this horrible condition. Health organizations across America estimate that between 17 and 30 percent of veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from some level of PTSD.
Vets and their supporters stressed that the protest and the display of empty pill bottles were not meant to win any special privileges or benefits – all veterans want is the freedom to pursue an alternative form of medical treatment that is wholly and legally available to civilians in many parts of the country. Hell, let’s give our veterans medical marijuana licenses as part of their employment benefits. Because if anyone deserves to smoke a joint and feel good whenever they feel like it in America, it is the men and women who’ve pout their lives on the line to keep us safe at home.