DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – A new bill is proposing major changes that could affect the VA medical center across the nation, including the one in the Miami Valley.
The proposed law would reclassify the drug to Schedule II and that means it would also partially legalize medical marijuana, a battle many are already fighting for here in Ohio.
It’s a bipartisan effort in the U.S. Senate, the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States Act or CARES Act.
“We, as a society, are changing our opinions on restricting people’s choices as far as medical treatments,” Sen. Rand Paul (R- Kentucky) explained. “There are thousands of people in our country, probably tens of thousands of people in our country, who have diseases that are incurable and that would like to seek palliative treatment.”
If passed, the bill would impact states where medical marijuana is already legal.
Ohio is not one of them., but the Buckeye state has decriminalized the drug, which means there are fewer and lessened penalties for Ohioans using marijuana medically.
For 23 states and Washington D.C., where the drug is legal, people buying it for medical use would no longer face federal prosecution under this legislation.
One local lawyer and Air Force veteran says America’s soldiers have the most to gain from the passing of the bi-partisan bill.
“I tried every other thing and then tried marijuana and realized that there were less side effects and it helped my situation,” Michael Brice Keller recalled.
The Iraq and Korea veteran was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
The bill would allow VA doctors to prescribe and recommend the drug to vets, like Keller.
But without the proposed law, VA doctors doing this would be illegal.
The Department of Veteran Affairs has banned doctors from prescribing or even discussing the drug as treatment.
Ohio decriminalizing cannabis is not enough to allow veterans and other patients to get prescriptions for their pain and suffering, which is why Keller advocates for legalizing marijuana altogether.
“The option to use a viable alternative instead of these powerful narcotics would allow doctors more options to better treat their patients,” he petitioned.
A criminal defense lawyer says not passing the law will punish the soldiers who are seeking help for their pain from issues like PTSD, combat injuries and depression.
“This is just wrong. It’s indecent to cage human beings for choosing a safer, more viable alternative for their medical needs,” Keller exclaimed!
To right this perceived wrong, Keller has worked with ResponsibleOhio; it’s a group pushing for the legalization of marijuana in Ohio.
The organization says it would mean more than half a billion dollars in new tax revenue for Ohio, with projections of a $554 million boost in tax revenue.
Predictions also estimate that $476 million would go to local and county governments.
The other $78 million would go to addiction prevention services, regulation enforcement, and marijuana research.
Before ResponsibleOhio can move forward, its ballot initiative must be certified through the Ohio Attorney General’s office.
Then they must collect enough signatures to get it on the November’s ballot, which Keller expects will happen.
However, in the meantime, he plans to closely follow the legislation’s path in Washington and he hopes it’s the first of many steps to legalizing the drug nationwide.