Arizona Senate Approves Free Medical Marijuana Cards for Veterans
It’s a heartening advance in what has been largely an uphill battle for veterans.
Published on March 11, 2023

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Arizona is taking the lead on prioritizing the health of veterans by making increasing access to cannabis. As originally reported by The Center Square and amplified by Marijuana Moment, the state’s Senate has approved a law that would make getting a medical marijuana card free for war vets. The law would also cut the cost of registration and renewal to a third of its current price for civilians.

"We felt it was really important to provide the veterans in the state access to medical marijuana as they see needed," Ann Torrez, executive director of the Arizona Dispensaries Association, told The Center Square

The legislation is actually part of broad package of cannabis reform. It would also add the requirement that cannabis packaging feature a QR code that includes all relevant health warnings for the enclosed product, as well as contact information for a poison control center (relevant information, perhaps, for parents or pet owners whose little ones have accidentally ingested weed.)

For years, veteran advocacy groups have rallied around the need to make medical marijuana available to those who have fought in our country’s wars. Currently, federal health services for vets may not endorse cannabis treatment, and vets who live in federally-supported housing and nursing homes may not consume marijuana without the fear of having those services revoked.

Cannabis access for vets has long been a political priority for many, given that health conditions experienced by many veterans like chronic pain and post traumatic stress disorder are among those whose treatment is supported by many scientific findings.

Last year, a study from Michigan’s Wayne State University found that small doses of THC could boost the effectiveness of traditional therapies used to treat PTSD. Findings from a recent study published in the Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics journal suggest that medical cannabis can help reduce symptoms of insomnia, anxiety, and stress in PTSD patients.

Scientific debate has raged as of late over cannabis’ potential utility in treating chronic pain, even though the health condition is one of the most commonly cited reasons that patients opt for medical cannabis. Still, as publications from institutions like Harvard Medical School point out, many “traditional” opiate-based pain medications carry with them severe secondary effects, and even cause addiction. So perhaps relief via the placebo effect (which medical cannabis has been charged with by some in the case of pain treatment) isn’t the worst thing that can happen?

As we ponder such findings, the march to widen access to cannabis medicine for veterans marches on. Canada was projected to have spent some $200 million on medical marijuana reimbursements last year for vets. Last year, legislators pushed to include provisions in the year’s military spending bill that would have allowed Department of Veterans Affairs doctors to prescribe medical cannabis in states where it’s legal, as well as establish protections for cannabis consuming vets living in federal housing — but none of those provisions made it into the bill’s final draft.

Caitlin Donohue
Caitlin Donohue is a Bay Area-raised, Mexico City-based cannabis writer and author of She Represents: 44 Women Who Are Changing Politics and the World. Her weekly show Crónica on Radio Nopal explores Mexican marijuana culture and politics in the prohibition era. Follow Caitlin on IG @byrdwatch.
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