American Legion to POTUS: Allow marijuana research for vets – Bryan Bender 05/20/2017 07:09 AM EDT

Under current rules, doctors with the Department of Veterans Affairs cannot even discuss marijuana as an option with patients.

Former U.S. Marine Mike Whiter, pictured in March 2016, uses marijuana medically to treat his post-traumatic stress disorder. Whiter, who served in Iraq in the mid-2000s, promotes veteran access to marijuana to treat PTSD. | AP Photo

One of the nation’s most conservative veterans’ groups is appealing to President Donald Trump to reclassify marijuana to allow large-scale research into whether cannabis can help troops suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

The change sought by The American Legion would conflict with the strongly anti-marijuana positions of some administration leaders, most vocally Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Under current rules, doctors with the Department of Veterans Affairs cannot even discuss marijuana as an option with patients. But the alternative treatment is gaining support in the medical community, where some researchers hope pot might prove more effective than traditional pharmaceuticals in controlling PTSD symptoms and reducing the record number of veteran suicides.

“We are not asking for it to be legalized,” said Louis Celli, the national director of veterans affairs and rehabilitation for the American Legion, which with 2.4 million members is the largest U.S. veterans’ organization. “There is overwhelming evidence that it has been beneficial for some vets. The difference is that it is not founded in federal research because it has been illegal.”

The Legion has requested a White House meeting with Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and close aide, “as we seek support from the president to clear the way for clinical research in the cutting edge areas of cannabinoid receptor research,” according to a recent letter shared with POLITICO.

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A Benefit For Rural Vets: Getting Health Care Close To Home – by QUIL LAWRENCE October 13, 2014 3:21 AM ET

For some rural vets who live far from a VA hospital, getting medical care has meant driving a day or two from home, and missing work.i

For some rural vets who live far from a VA hospital, getting medical care has meant driving a day or two from home, and missing work.


Army veteran Randy Michaud had to make a 200-mile trip to the Veterans Affairs hospital in Aroostook County, Maine, near the Canadian border, every time he had a medical appointment.

Michaud, who was medically retired after a jeep accident in Germany 25 years ago, moved home to Maine in 1991. He was eligible for VA medical care, but the long drive was a problem.

He’s one of millions of veterans living in rural America who must travel hundreds of miles round-trip for care.

“If I get an appointment in the winter, I’ll cancel that sucker and I’ll live with the pain until spring time,” he says.

Even in the summer, the trip for Michaud — and other vets like him — meant a day, or sometimes two, of missed work, with a night in a motel, plus the cost of gas. The VA reimburses those costs, but this is not a rich area, and people don’t always have the cash upfront.

Michaud says the worst part is an empty, 100-mile strip of Interstate 95 north of Bangor.

“Especially in the winter time,” he says. “That 95 is treacherous, and it’s not necessarily always cleared and stuff like that. I’ve wrecked a couple times on that road. It’s just cold, and a lot of these are older veterans; they can’t make that trip down there.”

To make it easier for vets to get care, the VA started a program called Access Received Closer to Home, or ARCH. A trial program began three years ago in five states.

This summer, Congress extended the program for two years, as part of a law aimed at reforming the VA. It will allow veterans to use private doctors if they live far from a VA hospital or can’t get a VA appointment within 30 days.

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How Far Should We Go to Save Our Pets? – By David Grimm JULY 27 2014 8:15 PM

Veterinarians with wondrous new treatments face an ethical dilemma.

Vets are struggling with whether to offer expensive services to clients they know can’t afford them. Above, a black Labrador recieves treatment in a hydrotherapy tank at the University of Glasgow vet school in 2013 in Scotland.
Photo by Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images

When our 5-month-old kitten, Jasper, went into kidney failure a few years ago, letting him die wasn’t an option. We rushed him to our veterinarian, who drew his blood, X-rayed him, and cultured his urine. She told us he might have just a few days to live. So we drove him to an emergency clinic on the outskirts of Baltimore, where he saw an internist, then a nephrologist. He spent three days in the intensive care unit, hooked up to a catheter and intravenous antibiotics, while he underwent ultrasounds, urinalyses, and blood-chemistry profiles. Slowly, he began to recover. It took a while for our bank accounts to do the same. We had adopted Jasper for next to nothing from a shelter, but a few days of emergency veterinary care had cost us more than $3,000.

Twenty years ago, we couldn’t have spent that much money if we wanted to. The fancy machines, the complex diagnostics, even the veterinary specialists just weren’t available. Thanks to advances in veterinary medicine, our pets are living longer, healthier lives than ever before. But it has also become much harder to let them go. When our dogs and cats used to get very sick, we could justify putting them to sleep because it was the only option. Now, in an age of kidney transplants for cats and chemotherapy for dogs, euthanasia has begun to seem like a cruel way out.

Yet not everyone can afford to save their pets. And some go bankrupt trying. Meanwhile, vets themselves are struggling with whether to offer such expensive services to clients they know can’t afford them. Every year, our pets become more like family, and in some cases virtual children. Indeed, as I write in my new book, Citizen Canine: Our Evolving Relationship With Cats and Dogs, we have become closer to our pets than at any point in human history. But just how far should we go to save them?