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Veterans For Peace Calls For Rescheduling Cannabis

Written by Mike Cockrell   
Thursday, 04 September 2014 07:07
The 2014 Veterans For Peace National Conference has unanimously passed Resolution 2014-03, which among other things, calls for further studies of medical cannabis, including calling upon the Federal government to reschedule the plant, which is currently Federally listed as a Schedule I Drug under the US Drug Enforcement Administration. The 2014 VFP National Conference was recently held in Asheville, North Carolina, which also happens to be home to the local chapter where the resolution was first introduced. Author of the resolution, and VFP Board Member Tom Palumbo, comments on the recent passing. “The resolution, I’m happy to say, passed my chapter unanimously, the board of directors unanimously, passed at the National Conference unanimously, and it will be ratified by the entire organization in the fall voting, and I expect that to be near unanimous, if not 100% unanimous as well.” In regards to any internal speed bumps or possible hurdles that he might have faced on the way to passing the resolution, he adds “Interestingly, no. I anticipated some here and there, but that never occurred, which actually surprised me a little.” In addition to calling on the Federal Government to reschedule the plant, the resolution calls for open communication to be allowed between Veterans and their healthcare providers, without the fear of potentially negative repercussions.
The 2014-03 VFP Resolution reads in full, as follows:

Be it resolved, that Veterans For Peace advocates further study and use of medical cannabis for treatment of Veterans seeking relief for maladies incurred during active duty and post service where medically appropriate.
VFP recognizes that there are benefits reported by Veterans experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), and pain, and calls upon the federal government to reschedule cannabis so that it can be legally accessed by Veterans for their treatment.
Furthermore Veterans For Peace believes it is the right of any Veteran to discuss with his/her healthcare provider any and all possible treatment options related to the Veterans health and clinical care, including the use of medical cannabis, without the threat to the Veteran or provider of disciplinary action, regulatory loss of privilege or benefits, or criminal sanctions.

The organization, whose members make up a global network of over 140 worldwide chapters, expands upon a previously passed resolution from back in 2007, which stated their support for “legislation that eliminates criminal and civil penalties for the doctor-advised, medical use of marijuana by patients with serious physical medical conditions.” The 2007 version of the resolution also urged “that in a state where patients are permitted to use marijuana medicinally for serious and/or chronic illnesses and a patient's physician has recommended its use in accordance with that state's law and that state’s medical practice standards, the patient should not be subject to federal criminal penalties for such medicinal use.” Mr. Palumbo breaks down both the 2014 resolution itself, and the need for expanding upon their previously passed model. “One of the first things…” he explains, are what he considers “…the two major points to the resolution itself. The first being the rescheduling of the plant by the Federal Government.” Schedule I drugs are defined by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration as drugs with no current medical use, and a high level of abuse, and are considered the most dangerous of the five schedules which make up the Federal classifications. The 2007 resolution illuminates that the current classification restricts scientific research on the plant, prohibiting the Food and Drug Administration from evaluating and approving cannabis through the normal procedural channels. Other Schedule I drugs include heroin, LSD, and ecstasy; while cocaine, methamphetamine, hydromorphone, and oxycodone make up some of the “less dangerous” Schedule II drugs. With the way that the plant is currently scheduled, doctors and nurses at the VA are “…prohibited from advocating the use of medical marijuana” Tom says. “Even though there are currently doctors working for the VA who will admit to cannabis helping in up to half of the Veteran patients they treat with anxiety, chronic pain, PSTD, or some other malady, they are prohibited by Federal law to communicate this benefit with their patients.” The second thing Mr. Palumbo emphasizes about the resolution, is that “Communication between the doctor and patient should be privileged, just like any other communication would be considered. It should be confidential and protected, so that by being open with your practitioner and vice versa, you shouldn’t be set aside, or punished, or singled out.” As a practicing nurse, he can attest to the numerous patients he’s seen who have been kicked out of pain management programs, and denied access to the most commonly supplied medications for their ailments, such as benzodiazepines and narcotics. Where as in medical states the VA has more of a “…don’t ask don’t tell policy…,” in non-medical states, such as this year’s host to the VFP National Convention, North Carolina, “…patients are often singled out and suffer consequences because Federally it’s still considered a dangerous drug of abuse.” Additionally, Mr. Palumbo adds that more and more VA staff, including the doctors themselves, are citing the “anecdotal evidence of patients who do treat themselves with cannabis” (for things such as PTSD, TMI, and chronic pain), ”who are getting better.” Furthermore, “it’s easily admitted that cannabis is certainly safer than the benzodiazepines, narcotics, and everything else that would commonly go with the currently prescribed treatments.”
When mentioning the current legal status of cannabis, Tom can’t help but notice the ongoing restrictions the natural plant endures, but yet the irony of the plant’s synthetic cousin, Marinol® (dronabinol), manufactured by Unimed Pharmaceutical, which is “completely legal and accessible at your local Walgreens.” In fact, the synthetic THC in a sesame oil mixture was released on the market in 1985 as a Schedule II drug, but after constant pressure from the pharmaceutical industry, among others, the drug was reclassified to the Schedule III classification in 1999, joining other drugs “with a moderate to low potential for physical abuse,” such as anabolic steroids and testosterone. Even though a common sense rationale would seem to lead to the quick demise of the prohibition of the completely natural version of cannabis, (such as the short lived 1920 – 1933 Constitutional prohibition of alcohol), there are powerful and well-funded groups fighting to keep the plant as far from the public’s reach as possible. The normal players in the effort to keep the current scheduling, are commonly those who are most likely to lose money from legalization, such as the pharmaceutical industry, the alcohol and tobacco companies, the private prison industrial complex, and while not always the first to come to mind, as Retired Philadelphia Police Captain Ray Lewis points out, the police unions themselves. “Arrests for marijuana are the ‘cash cow’ of the legal system” he goes on to explain. “It’s money for the judges, money for the lawyers, money for the prison industrial complex, and money for the officers themselves. The arrests are made for one reason, because they know there will be overtime involved. They know there will be hearings that they’ll have to attend, which will result in overtime, so they arrest as many as they can just so that they can go to the hearings and cash in.” However, as far as the need for all of the resources being spent to uphold the current, and “abysmally failed” as he refers to it, “War on Drugs,” the former Police Chief’s actual on the job experience tells a whole other story.
The first 10 years on the force, Mr. Lewis was assigned as a patrol officer, the same officers who “ride around the streets of their precinct responsible for answering the dispatched radio calls; the ones who are supposedly there to protect the community” as he says. He then continues “The thing that hits me the strongest is that in those ten years I spent as a patrolman, by far, the most frequent calls I responded to, were domestic disturbances. Out of those several thousand domestic disturbances I responded to, I would say as an estimation, that in 90% of them, one if not both of the combatants were intoxicated on alcohol, but not a single one was a result of marijuana. I was not an exception, by the way, every patrol officer’s log showed domestic disturbance as the most prevalent. It’s an incredible amount of resources being spent just there, on alcohol related domestic fights, and I can’t speak for the other officers, but I bet they were very similar to mine, in that not one was a result of people smoking marijuana. I don’t know how anyone, or a society in general, can rationalize the legalization of alcohol and tobacco, but not cannabis; it’s both ludicrous and a sham. There’s no way you should ever deny anyone the medical benefits that it provides, it’s inhuman.”
VFP Board Member Tom Palumbo and Retired Police Captain Ray Lewis can both personally speak on the ramifications of the current prohibition. As a nurse who has formerly worked inside the VA system, Mr. Palumbo is well aware of the all too familiar path many vets are taken down, resulting in self-medication. “If people don’t get the pain relief they need, if they can’t tolerate their prescribed cancer medicine, they can be driven to try something that could hurt or even kill them. I know too many people, Vets particularly, that medicate themselves to death.” As Captain Lewis details, it’s not just the medical patients feeling these ramifications, as simple arrests for possession can often have life changing consequences. “You get a father who gets jailed, the next thing you know the kids are without a father in the house, the mortgage is not getting paid, and now you have a family that’s homeless.” The retired officer also adds “Primarily, the arrests are of black men and women in economically depressed cities. You don’t see this as often in rural America, or in suburbia, even though there’s just as many people in these areas smoking marijuana. It’s the inner cities that are suffering.” He also cites the outrageousness of the penalties that can come along with marijuana charges, such as the current case of Texas teenager Jacob Lavoro, who might face a life in prison charge for attempting to distribute or sell cannabis infused brownies. “Here’s a normal high school kid, no previous record, and now he faces life in prison? It’s just destroying someone’s life, and that just can’t be, it just can’t be tolerated in America.”
Even though the ramifications and consequences of using cannabis are what they are, Mr. Palumbo still points out that “More and more people are coming out of, what I’d call, the cannabis closet. I’d like to think that common sense will prevail. Like any type of medicine, it’s not for everybody. If you’re allergic to the penicillin, don’t take the penicillin. It’s a mood altering drug, so of course you want to take it with caution.” Another reason the resolution calls for the rescheduling Tom adds, is “…we need standardization between the states.” While patients in medical states are quickly learning which strains and varieties are most effective at treating their personal ailments, those in non-medical states are hard pressed to find any real consistency among their plants. As the resolution points out, there are plenty of Veterans who have discovered the benefits that cannabis can provide patients suffering from ailments such as PTSD, TBI, and chronic pain. However, with the VA standing in the way of advocating these benefits to patients, and with standardization falling years behind where it could be without the current prohibition, Veterans in particular have been struggling to reap the full potential benefits that the plant has to offer. In fact, Mr. Palumbo states “The VA just may be the last showdown in the war for medical marijuana.” He does though, allude to the current shift in the VA’s apparent mentality. “The VA is trying to retract themselves, they’ve gotten into a lot of trouble recently overprescribing the benzodiazepines and narcotics. The VA is moving towards more of a cognitive approach of not so much eliminating the feelings, but learning how to deal with them.” Both Mr. Palumbo and Chief Lewis agree that as far as cannabis legalization goes, “we’ve already passed the tipping point. Now, it’s just a matter of how fast the dominoes will fall.”
Veterans For Peace is not alone in calling on the Federal Government to reschedule cannabis in order to allow access to further study the plant’s many potential medical benefits. There are numerous other national, state, and local organizations who have publically endorsed their support of medical marijuana as well, such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the American Academy of Family Physicians, the National Association for Public Health Policy, and the American Nurses Association, who back in 2003 passed a resolution stating they “Support the right of patients to have safe access to therapeutic marijuana/cannabis under appropriate prescriber supervision.” Meanwhile, large lobbying groups and corporations are still willing to throw vast sums of money into the mix, for the sole effort of keeping the plant illegal for their own further monetary gain. Once again, it seems common sense has ran into it’s all too familiar foe; those advocating profit before people. I think Mr. Palumbo put it best when he said “We’re too focused on the daily DOW (Jones) and the quarterly dividend, the bottom line, and we’re not saying to each other ‘Do you have enough to eat? Do you have a place to sleep? Are you okay, are you healthy?’ We’ve got to come back to valuing humans over profit. Until then, it’s a bad, nasty, unsustainable path we’re headed down.” your social media marketing partner
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