Congress Fails Miserably, Blocks Medical Marijuana For Veterans
Congress sees medical marijuana as a bigger threat than many military commanders.
Published on June 24, 2016

Congress blocked medical marijuana for military veterans, as well as three other major marijuana bills. The bump in the road for medical marijuana reform at the Department of Veterans Affairs likely won’t stymie the growing contingent of veterans who support reform.

“The law of the land is the law for now,” Mitch Earleywine, Professor of Psychology at University of Albany in New York, told MERRY JANE. “Every branch of the military has to obey federal regulations, so that includes enforcing cannabis prohibition.”

Although official military policy forbids marijuana use, veterans report to MERRY JANE laissez-faire attitudes towards marijuana in the Armed Forces.

“In my experience, the [Commanding Officers] were cool with pot,” a Fort Huachuca Army military intelligence veteran, who served four years in a signal battalion and prefers to remain anonymous, told MERRY JANE. “Just not us testing positive for it.”

He knows this firsthand.

“Multiple officer's told me that they had smoked before and would smoke as soon as their obligations were up,” he said.  “Most lower level military commanders know what time it is - they are down.” They just won’t publicly admit anything.

“If you got caught smoking pot directly it wasn't a big deal,” he recalled. “They'd sweep it under the rug if you were cool and did your job well. But if you got caught pissing hot. You're fucked. Weird random double standard.”  

A former Lance Corporal ‘Lew’, 30, told MERRY JANE how not to get caught “pissing hot.”

“We smoked pot the first day of every leave and then spent the rest of our time on cranberry juice and two gallons of water a day and saunas, sweating nerves about our inevitable piss test,” said the Iraq veteran, who served in Fallujah.

He added: “Two weeks leave meant first two days smoking pot and the rest of the time trying to flush it from your system. Ultimately, I'd say it was worth it.”

Hollywood scenes such as the underworld smoke scene from Platoon provide fictionalized insight into use during the Vietnam War. On YouTube, you can learn how to smoke marijuana through a shotgun from a Vietnam War squad leader.

During the Vietnam War, according to soldier accounts in Al Santoli’s  “Everything We Had: An Oral History of Vietnam”, some platoons, instead of going on their assigned patrol in Vietnam, would set up camp just outside of base to smoke cannabis and opium.

On November 10, 2015, the Senate passed the FY2016 Military Construction and Veterans affairs (MilCon-VA) Appropriations Bill, which enables Veterans Administration (VA) doctors to recommend medical marijuana to patients in medical marijuana states.

Earlywine highlighted one of the many reasons he believes veterans should determine how they treat themselves: “A growing body of research makes clear medical cannabis has proven to be an effective treatment for some soldiers with PTSD,” Earlywine said.

Justin O'Connell
Justin is a California-based writer who covers music, cannabis, craft beer, Baja California, science and technology. His writing has appeared in VICE and the San Diego Reader.
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