Should Our Veterans Have Access To Cannabis?
MÜV Florida recognizes the dedication of our U.S. veterans. Those who have sacrificed parts of their lives for the defense and betterment of our country should be treated as such. That’s why we are eager to represent those veterans who have given so much for us.
Regardless of the time of year, if you are a veteran and qualify for medical marijuana in the Florida state, we offer you a discount on our products. We also extend a special Veterans Day discount each year as well. Veterans deserve the healing effects of medical marijuana and we are proud to service them, which is why each year a portion of our proceeds is donated to the Grateful Veteran, a nonprofit organization educating veterans with PTSD and pain on alternatives to traditional pharmaceuticals, and the Veterans for Collaboration Foundation, whose goal is to assist veterans in re-entering civilian life and teaching healthy lifestyle habits, including reduction of traditional pharmaceuticals.
PTSD, injuries, and other forms of chronic pain are common among veterans. War, deployment and active duty in general places an extreme load onto their bodies and pushes them to their mental and physical limitations. Veterans are those that survived defending or preparing to defend this country and deserve, at the very least, some reprieve from the stress that being in active duty put on them.
Marijuana has been shown to greatly reduce the amount of stress and pain people feel—especially in vets suffering from PTSD and chronic pain. It only makes sense then that those who were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice have access to cannabis for their pain.
Understanding the Challenges of Those Facing PTSD
When trauma or extreme stress is experienced, the body has an intense reaction, referred to as the fight or flight instinct. Fear, stress, and other strong emotions trigger a massive surge of adrenaline and cortisol. Once this surge of hormones passes, the body enters a recovery state where the nervous system typically ‘resets’ or flushes itself. This reaction can cause some immediate effects such as vomiting that disappears after a short period of time. It is when something goes wrong with this reset, or prevention of entering this recovery phase and staying in the fight or flight state, that causes PTSD.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a severe reaction that happens after a person experiences some form of extreme stress-related incident. The symptoms of PTSD are similar to that of severe stress or fear that happened during the incident and usually involve recurring thoughts about the emotions during that time. There are four major symptoms of PTSD:
- Intrusive thoughts such as involuntary memories, flashbacks, or dreams that replay the traumatic event. Sometimes these memories can be vivid enough to feel like a repeat of the event.
- Avoiding people, places, activities, objects, and situations that could trigger traumatic memories. They then resist talking about the event and their feelings during and after that time.
- Alterations in cognition and mood such as being unable to remember certain aspects of the traumatic event, life shortly before or after, and negative thoughts towards the self and other people. These thoughts can lead to continuous feelings of anger, grief, horror, or guilt, and prevent joy in previous activities that they enjoyed previously.
- Alterations in behavior and reactivity such as having angry outbursts, behaving in a reckless way, being overly suspicious of their surroundings, lack of sleep, or difficulty concentrating.
These four symptoms are recurring and can affect a person with PTSD every day. They can be minor in that only a small number of these conditions are experienced, or serious enough that the person becomes a threat to themselves and the people around them due to the intensity of symptoms.
Marijuana and PTSD or Chronic Pain
Marijuana has shown to relieve PTSD symptoms by over 50%. THC has a chemical structure that is similar in structure to the brain’s chemical anandamide. This allows the body to interact with THC as it does anandamide (or, the “bliss” molecule), which in turn, alters normal brain communication. While this might seem like a bad thing, this altering is not necessarily harmful to the brain. Rather, this altering may reduce overactivity that causes many of the severe effects of PTSD while also stimulating happy emotions. Similarly, pain is also affected because of THC’s effect on the central nervous system. It tends to dull the pain signals in the body that are constantly occurring in chronic pain patients, which may lead to less pain being felt overall.
Discussing Marijuana with your VA Provider
Despite marijuana’s listing as a Schedule 1 drug on the federal level, the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will not prosecute or reduce your benefits if you discuss the usage of marijuana with your VA provider. Their website and policies dictate that VA clinicians are not allowed to prescribe, license, or endorse marijuana use, however, your VA doctor can discuss the potential benefits of cannabis with you. If you are concerned about discussing THC, the VA’s policies are as follows:
- Veterans will not be denied VA benefits because of marijuana use.
- Veterans are encouraged to discuss marijuana use with their VA providers.
- VA clinicians may not recommend medical marijuana.
- VA clinicians may not prescribe products containing THC, CBD, or any other cannabinoids.
Those who use marijuana to relieve their symptoms may be afraid to talk to the VA clinicians about their pot usage. Even if they are limited in their ability to recommend marijuana, they should know about any major changes you have made in your medicinal routine that could change how they approach your medical issues.
Of note, all marijuana use is prohibited on VA property—license or not. This is primarily due to its remaining Schedule 1 classification and the limits that are imposed on them.
Where Can I Get a Medical Marijuana License if Not Through the VA?
If you are a veteran interested in getting a medical marijuana license in a medical-use state, the specific steps to follow will vary state-to-state. Most state level medical marijuana programs require you to have a physician’s approval followed by a screening to get a license. Chronic pain, PTSD, and debilitating conditions can all qualify for a medical marijuana license. Some doctors may be more likely than others to recommend medical marijuana usage, so you should check reviews of doctors in your area before scheduling an appointment with them if you do not already have a primary care physician.
In the state of Florida, you must visit a recommending physician participating in the medical marijuana program. The physician will read your medical history and evaluate your qualifications based on the conditions and symptoms listed. If you are approved, they will then set up your profile with the Office of Medical Marijuana Use Registry, where all of your recommendations will be stored. Once your license arrives, you can purchase marijuana from any certified Medical Marijuana Treatment Center (MMTC), or medical dispensary, in your area. You can learn more about medical marijuana in Florida and the process of becoming a patient here.
Veterans and Medical Marijuana
As mentioned earlier, the VA clinicians cannot recommend marijuana in any form. Because of their limitations of prescribing and endorsing pot, many continue to prescribe opioid derivatives with serious long-lasting and addictive properties. Clinicians are restricted by the federal law as they are working under the federal government directly. An outside doctor who is not part of the VA is not restricted by federal law and can thus recommend, prescribe, and endorse marijuana use.
The harmful effects of opioids are apparent among those veterans who follow the VA’s recommendation. Veterans have been disproportionately affected by opioid overdose and are twice as likely to die from accidental overdose than civilians. The side effects themselves are much more severe than marijuana. Short-term side effects of opioids include:
- Slowed breathing
Meanwhile, once physical dependency has been established, the withdrawal symptoms can be disastrous. Night sweats, fevers, severe pain, insomnia, and more are common and may induce more negative effects than what they are meant to be treating. Veterans who are thinking about taking opioids or their derivatives should do their research before starting them. Many veterans have turned towards marijuana as a fix for their symptoms as it is non-addictive with minimal long-term effects.
If you are seeking a marijuana license or want a second option outside of the VA’s recommended prescription, make sure to find a recommending physician and follow the proper channels to receive your license.
Current Legality of Marijuana Across the United States
As of right now, 36 states have legalized marijuana for medical use. If caught in a non-recreational or non-medical use state you could be charged with a felony depending on the amount and type of marijuana on hand. Around one ounce is often considered intent to distribute in law, which poses more serious criminal charges. Even some recreational and medically legal states will enforce a maximum limit that can be on your person at one time before being classified as unlawful. Certain states have additional restrictions, such as Texas, which considers cannabis vapes as a felony, while anything up to two ounces is a Class B misdemeanor. It should also be noted that if you are a holder of a medical marijuana license and cross state lines with marijuana, your license is not valid for that state and you can be prosecuted.
There are currently bills such as the MORE Act which would remove cannabis from the Schedule 1 listings, and the Veterans Equal Access Act which removes the current restrictions on VA clinics to prescribe, recommend, and endorse marijuana. With more than 80 percent of veterans supporting marijuana legalization—you are not alone in trying to find an effective pain reliever.
Is Medical Marijuana Right for Me?
Veteran Talking to Doctor About Medical Marijuana
If you are looking for pain or stress relief, marijuana may be for you. If you are interested in exploring the effects of pot and think it will help you, search for a Medical Cannabis Physician in FL and schedule an appointment today!
At MÜV Florida, our extensive line of quality medical marijuana products is tailored to potentially relieve chronic pain or disorders, and comes in many variations. We are proud to give back in a small way by offering discounts to veterans who have served this country and are looking forward to hearing from you!
*Editor's note: This was originally posted November 10, 2020 and has been updated June 18, 2021