Tuesday, September 25, 2018
Bay County military veterans support VA medical marijuana bill – News – Panama City News Herald
PANAMA CITY BEACH — After his experiences during the Vietnam War, disabled Marine veteran Larry Striblin said medical marijuana helps him sleep.
Striblin has PTSD and thinks the VA should be able to prescribe medical marijuana for veterans. So does U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), who recently co-filed legislation with Hawaiian Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz that directs the VA to “conduct research on the effects of medical marijuana on veterans who are in pain and how prescribing marijuana to veterans can be used to reduce opioid abuse among veterans,” according to a news release.
In 2011 the National Institute of Health reported veterans being seen by the VA were twice as likely as civilians to overdose on opiates.
The bill also creates a “temporary, five-year safe harbor protection” for veterans using medical marijuana. While VA doctors can’t currently prescribe medical marijuana since it’s still federally illegal, Florida is one of many states that allows medical marijuana use under certain circumstances.
Several veterans in Bay County said they support the legislation and veterans using VA-prescribed marijuana to at least some extent. Here are the takes of five local veterans.
Striblin, as said above, is very much in favor of what Nelson is proposing, noting it will help the VA curb the problem it’s having with opioids.
“It can get us off a lot of drugs,” Striblin said.
John Kittler, who served in the Navy from 1975 to 2005, is skeptical about medical marijuana’s benefits. Kittler cited a 2017 medical study, prepared for the VA and other agencies, that said cannabis was overall associated with a higher risk of short-term adverse effects in reviews examining effects on chronic pain. The study also said heavy smoking of marijuana may have the potential to cause adverse pulmonary effects over an extended period of time.
“I’m not discounting the anecdotal evidence because if you feel better, you feel better,” Kittler said. “I agree with the conclusions of the study. The body of evidence at this time says it’s not advisable to use it for veterans.”
A disabled Air Force veteran who served from 1982 to 2004, Hunsberger said it should be prescribed if the VA cuts back on opioid prescriptions. Hunsberger isn’t fond of the pain medication he currently has to take.
A Vietnam veteran who served in the Navy, Waringa doesn’t have a problem with the VA prescribing medical marijuana if they document that it helps patients. Waringa said some people “swear it helps them out a lot” and enough states and studies are coming along to justify the benefits.
“Even if it’s just psychological, if it’s helping them out, it’s a good thing,” Waringa said. “In some instances, it might (help). There are circumstances to be prescribed and circumstances not to.”
An Army veteran who served during the Korean and Vietnam wars, Miner said medical marijuana could work if it’s treated like other pain medications. People should be able to use the medication as long as they don’t abuse it, she said.
“The time has come where we need to seriously consider using it as an alternative to the opioids that we’re dishing out now,” Miner said. “It has to be regulated. It has to be given out at the appropriate time and place. It’s just like anything else. Aspirin is good for some people and it’s not good for others.”
However, Miner did wonder about veterans who have to be drug-tested if they work in government jobs.