Utah Veterans Take Capitol Hill for Medical Cannabis SB73

Courtney Meyers, former combat medic with the 101st Airborne, served in Ramadi, Iraq and was at the Utah Capitol to advocate the passage of Senator Madsen’s Medical Cannabis Act
Courtney Meyers, former combat medic with the 101st Airborne, served in Ramadi, Iraq and was at the Utah Capitol to advocate the passage of Senator Madsen’s Medical Cannabis Act

Too often, it’s now a very different kind of war that they’re fighting. Now, in what should be the safety of their own states and the country they served, the casualties accumulate from self-inflicted means when there’s no emotional relief or treatment that’s working for their internal battle with physical and emotional pain. Their advocates want their doctors to have all of the treatment options.

Representative Gage Froerer and Senator Mark Madsen, co-sponsors of SB 73 – Utah’s Medical Cannabis Act, were joined on Capitol Hill Friday by veterans of Army, Air Force and the Marine Corps urging Utah’s House of Representatives to get behind the veterans’ courage and the Utah Senate and pass the bill allowing for medical marijuana. Their voices emphasized the medicine, not the so-called recreation associated with the naturally occurring, plant-based compounds which could offer relief to Utah’s veterans who seek treatment options for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other ailments, most often related to their service to their country. The veterans’ representatives all believe that medical applications of “whole plant” derivatives should be a pharmacological option for the treatment of those who have sacrificed their health while experiencing the stress of conflict and war.

Their voices emphasized the medicine, not the so-called recreation, associated with the naturally occurring plant-based compounds could offer relief to Utah’s veterans who seek treatment options for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other ailments, most often related to their service to their country. The veterans’ representatives all believe that medical applications of “whole plant” derivatives should be a pharmacological option for the treatment of those who have sacrificed their health while experiencing the stress of conflict and war.

Retired Captain Peter Haglin of the U.S. Army, a 2002 West Point graduate and paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division, led combat operations in Fallujah and Mamadiah, Iraq. Now he leads the effort to recapture the ground that his soldiers need to allow them all of the options necessary to lead normal lives. “Our veterans wrote a blank check to us, and now they’re hurting, and we owe it to them to allow them to seek the treatment they need with their physicians,”

“Our veterans wrote a blank check to us, and now they’re hurting, and we owe it to them to allow them to seek the treatment they need with their physicians,” Haglin said, adding “I’m here to stand up for our veterans and for my soldiers…To our representatives in the House: There are not very many opportunities in life where we can make a real difference in someone’s life. I urge you, I beg you to not let this opportunity pass you by.”

How They’re Hurting

Military Deaths

Not many minutes later, under “Special Orders of Business,” the House had honored more than 30 people who came into the House chamber, honoring them as Families of the Fallen. The Pentagon has termed a growing part of their grief as an “epidemic.” Just four years ago in 2012, for the first time in at least a generation, the number of active-duty soldiers who killed themselves, 177, exceeded the 176 who were killed while in the war zone. This past year, 8 of 13 Utahns died the same way and the number is increasing.

Courtney Meyers, a veteran combat medic who served in Ramadi with the 101st Airborne Division, joined Haglin at the Capitol to advocate for the passage of the SB 73.

“We have around 150,00 veterans in the state of Utah,” said  Meyers, “They all sacrificed something. Many of them sacrificed everything.” She told of the sobering statistic that approximately 23 veterans in the U.S. lose their own, private battle every day.

These leaders’ pleas were underscored by Korean War veteran Don Duff, with Salt Lake’s American Legion – which includes several posts throughout metropolitan Utah. Duff was more direct in his appeal: “[Veterans of Utah] assert our claim to the right and the freedom to choose treatment with cannabis for our own health. When the time comes that combat is ended for future generations of our warriors and the rest of life is to be lived, they will have available a tested, proven and widely accepted treatment.”

The carefully defined “Medical Cannabis Act,” does not allow for any smoking of the drug for the purposes of recreation or self-medication. In fact, the bill does not allow for any combustible use.

The effort to confront and augment traditional opioid prescription in the state originally began during the 2015 legislative session when Senator Madsen first introduced the concept. The debate then failed to advance from his Senate presentation by only one vote on the session’s last night of assembly. Presently, the Senate has forwarded SB 73 to the House for its consideration, and the veterans have stormed Utah’s Capitol Hill in an effort to take care of their own.

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