DEBATE THIS: Should Marijuana Use Be Legalized Under Federal Law For Medical Purposes?

Debates

THE FACTS: Under federal law, Veterans Health Administration doctors are prohibited from making recommendations or offering their medical opinions to patients about the use of medical marijuana. Currently, no doctors — whether private sector or government — can write prescriptions for marijuana, even in states that have passed laws legalizing it for medical purposes. Doctors can only "recommend" it for medical use. A recent Senate provision would allow VA physicians to recommend marijuana to veterans seeking care in states where it is legal. The provision comes amid growing calls to lift the federal ban of marijuana, particularly so people coping with post-traumatic stress or chronic pain can use it without fear of criminal prosecution or losing their VA benefits.

Brian Adam Jones

I've never smoked marijuana in my life, I don't have a personal stake in this argument. From a policy standpoint, however, who are these laws protecting, and what are they protecting people from? We've seen California, Colorado, and Washington recognize this reality — the reality that harmful marijuana laws contribute to a broken and overburdened criminal justice system. Our prisons are filled with far too many nonviolent offenders. Where veterans are concerned, how is society threatened if a young veteran smokes marijuana to help cope with the symptoms of post-traumatic stress?

Marijuana has legitimate medicinal uses. In May, the New England Journal of Medicine reported that more than 75% of doctors approve of medicinal marijuana. Marijuana has also been shown to alleviate the symptoms of post-traumatic stress; offering, for many, a far better alternative to the antidepressants and other mood altering drugs the VA has heavily relied on to treat post-traumatic stress.
We've seen over the past 40 years that criminalizing marijuana doesn't stop people from using it. The use of marijuana is so widespread, indeed, that the last three presidents of the United States have openly admitted to using it. I believe this newest generation of veterans will go on and achieve great things, the only thing these laws are doing is jeopardizing a bright and promising future.

Craig Phildius Special Agent, Drug Enforcement AdministrationU.S. Marine Corps veteran, 1995-1999

Having been a DEA agent for 12 years in New York City, I have seen firsthand the negative impact of marijuana use. Marijuana is addictive; it is the gateway drug on the street, and I am against its legalization for medicinal purposes.

During the past few years, there has been quite a bit of public debate about this issue and a number of states have ignored federal law and legalized marijuana for personal and medicinal use. The supporters argue that if marijuana is legalized, it can be taxed and regulated. Both are valid and true arguments. However, the American Medical Association, the nation's largest medical group, still considers cannabis to be a dangerous drug, and for scientific reasons, does not believe it should be legalized. Additionally, marinol, a drug that includes the active ingredient in marijuana (THC), is an approved alternative that can be prescribed by a doctor.
In my experience, the medical marijuana "patients" I came in contact with didn't have a true illness. They were individuals who just wanted to smoke marijuana, get high, and they found the legal loophole to do so. On a human level I am sympathetic to people who are genuinely suffering from an illness. However, on a broader scale, the legalization of marijuana, I believe, will lead to severe misuse, addiction, and a less productive society.

Army recruiters hold a swearing-in ceremony for over 40 of Arkansas' Future Soldiers at the Arkansas State Capital Building. (U.S. Army/Amber Osei)

Though the Army has yet to actually set an official recruiting goal for this year, leaders are confident they're going to bring in more soldiers than last year.

Maj. Gen. Frank Muth, head of Army Recruiting Command, told reporters on Wednesday that the Army was currently 2,226 contracts ahead of where it was in 2019.

"I will just tell you that this time last year we were in the red, and now we're in the green which is — the momentum's there and we see it continuing throughout the end of the year," Muth said, adding that the service hit recruiting numbers in February that haven't been hit during that month since 2014.

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(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.

We are women veterans who have served in the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps. Our service – as aviators, ship drivers, intelligence analysts, engineers, professors, and diplomats — spans decades. We have served in times of peace and war, separated from our families and loved ones. We are proud of our accomplishments, particularly as many were earned while immersed in a military culture that often ignores and demeans women's contributions. We are veterans.

Yet we recognize that as we grew as leaders over time, we often failed to challenge or even question this culture. It took decades for us to recognize that our individual successes came despite this culture and the damage it caused us and the women who follow in our footsteps. The easier course has always been to tolerate insulting, discriminatory, and harmful behavior toward women veterans and service members and to cling to the idea that 'a few bad apples' do not reflect the attitudes of the whole.

Recent allegations that Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie allegedly sought to intentionally discredit a female veteran who reported a sexual assault at a VA medical center allow no such pretense.

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In this June 16, 2018 photo, Taliban fighters greet residents in the Surkhroad district of Nangarhar province, east of Kabul, Afghanistan, (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

KABUL/WASHINGTON/PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - The United States and the Taliban will sign an agreement on Feb. 29 at the end of a week long period of violence reduction in Afghanistan, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Taliban said on Friday.

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A U.S. Army UH-60L Black Hawk crew chief with the New Jersey National Guard's 1-171st General Support Aviation Battalion stands for a portrait at the Army Aviation Support Facility on Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., Feb. 3, 2020 (Air National Guard photo / Master Sgt. Matt Hecht)

Active-duty service members, Reservists and National Guard members often serve side-by-side performing highly skilled and dangerous jobs, such as parachuting, explosives demolition and flight deck operations.

Reservists and Guard members are required to undergo the same training as specialized active-duty troops, and they face the same risks. Yet the extra incentive pay they receive for their work — called hazardous duty incentive pay — is merely a fraction of what their active-duty counterparts receive for performing the same job.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers, led by U.S. Rep. Andy Kim, D-3 of Moorestown, are partnering on legislation to correct the inequity. Known as the Guard and Reserve Hazard Duty Pay Equity Act, the bill seeks to standardize payment of hazardous duty incentive pay for all members of the armed services, including Reserve and National Guard components.

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A screen grab from a YouTube video shows Marines being arrested during formation at Camp Pendleton in July, 2019. (Screen capture)

Editor's Note: This article by Gina Harkins originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

Another Marine was hit with jail time and a bad-conduct discharge in connection with a slew of arrests made last summer over suspicions that members of a California-based infantry battalion were transporting people who'd crossed into the U.S. illegally.

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