Veterans in D.C. May Not Benefit From Medical Marijuana

Chronic pain, PTSD not qualifying conditions

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The two conditions that hamper veterans most -- post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain -- are not qualifying conditions for medical marijuana in the District, according to the legislation as written.

    Though the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs eased rules this summer penalizing veterans who use medical marijuana in those states where its use is legal, many -- if not most -- veterans in the District will not be eligible for medical marijuana.

    "Between those two conditions, you're talking about the majority of trauma patients in the VA system [seeking medical marijuana]," said Michael Krawitz, executive director of Veterans for Medical Marijuana.

    The current text of the law stipulates five conditions qualifying as ailments for which marijuana can be issued: HIV, AIDS, glaucoma, cancer, and multiple sclerosis and other conditions that cause "severe and persistent muscle spasms."

    According to the legislation, further serious, chronic, and debilitating conditions may be stipulated by rulemaking.

    Many parameters of the medical marijuana dispensation program remain unclear and will be decided by the incoming Vincent Gray administration.

    Even a change to the rules will not improve the chances that certain soldiers will receive medical marijuana for treatment.

    At Walter Reed Medical Center, medical marijuana is not an option, no matter what D.C. law says. "There has been no consideration by [Department of Defense] or Army medical communities to use marijuana for therapeutic purposes," says Terry Goodman, deputy director for public affairs at Walter Reed. Marijuana -- in any context -- is "a controlled substance" and "a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice."

    The Rand Corporation released a report in 2008 saying that nearly 20 percent of service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

    Efforts to legalize medical marijuana in Maryland re-emerged last week as a campaign issue in the runup to the election on Tuesday.