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Advocacy Groups Raise Objections to Veterans’ Home Proposal to Ban Medical Marijuana Use

Posted: December 27, 2018|Category: Discrimination Category: Rights of the Disabled Category: Medical Marijuana Category: The "War on Drugs"

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Citing concerns about the potentially devastating impact on veterans wishing to participate in Rhode Island’s medical marijuana program, six state and national advocacy organizations have expressed strong opposition to a Department of Human Services proposal to ban the use of “narcotics prohibited by federal law” – including medical marijuana – at the Veterans’ Home in Bristol. 

Since 2006, Rhode Island has authorized the use of medical marijuana for a variety of medical conditions. Even more pertinent, two years ago the General Assembly approved legislation specifically allowing individuals suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to use medical marijuana to ease their symptoms. Passage of that amendment was prompted in large part by the plight of veterans suffering from PTSD.

In written testimony submitted to R.I. DHS against the proposal, the six organizations cite news coverage highlighting the use of medical marijuana for the relief of PTSD and alleviating what some are calling a suicide epidemic among veterans. The testimony argues that DHS’ proposal “would actually amount to a step backward in addressing this literal life-or-death issue for our state’s veterans.”

The testimony further notes that because “the Veterans’ Home is a creation of state law, no provision in federal law bars the allowance of medical marijuana use at the Home,” and that federal policy provides that veterans “must not be denied [Veterans Health Administration] services solely because they are participating in State-approved marijuana programs.”

The organizations have requested that the regulations be clarified so as not to negatively impact veterans who participate in and benefit from the State’s medical marijuana program. The local organizations submitting the testimony are the ACLU of RI, the RI Patient Advocacy Coalition and Protect Families First. The national organizations that have joined in the testimony are: Veterans Alternative Healing Inc., Americans for Safe Access and the Marijuana Policy Project.

Annajane Yolken, executive director of Protect Families First, said today: “It is important that our veterans have access to all forms of sanctioned medical care in their home, especially for PTSD. We strongly encourage the Veterans’ Home to allow the use of medical marijuana.”

Full text of the testimony can be found here.

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