Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Democrats Overcome GOP Opposition To Medical Marijuana In Veterans Hospitals


The new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll dug into how independent voters view the two parties. It's just a snapshot in time but 23% of independent voters saw the Democratic Party positively and 37% saw them negatively. Pretty horrible. But it was far worse for the Republicans. Only 8% of independent voters have a positive view of the GOP, while a staggering 52% see the Republicans negatively. Knee-jerk, systemic Republican congressional obstructionism helps explain the numbers.

Voters see the inability of the Republicans to deal with even things as basic as voting on a Supreme Court vacancy or protecting the citizenry from the spread of the Zika virus in a very negative way. If Americans-- or even just independents-- voted on those feelings, there would be just a small handful of Republicans left in Congress.

It isn't even just on the big matters of state where the GOP seems deranged and filled with destructive hatred. They can be counted on to be wrong on almost everything. When I was a teenager I used to smoke pot. It's what teenagers were doing in the 1960s. By the 70s, I had stopped completely. I had zero interest in marijuana for 4 decades until I started feeling the effects of chemotherapy. I still didn't want to use marijuana... until I was persuaded it would help me to survive; and it did. That was over a year ago. I have plenty of the stuff left but now that I'm well, I have no use for it and no interest in it. It saved my life though, so... I respect it. It's lucky for me that I live in California, where medical marijuana is legal.

Last Thursday, Congress moved towards making medical marijuana legal everywhere. The House voted 233-189 by an amendment by Oregon's Earl Blumenauer to the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act that will "prohibit use of funds to implement, administer, or enforce any Veterans Health Administration Directive relating to the prohibition on VA providers from completing forms seeking recommendations on opinions regarding a veteran's participation in a state marijuana program." It was widely seen among Members of Congress for what it is: a step towards medical marijuana legalization.

Only 5 Democrats, led by reactionary anti-pot psychopaths Dan Lipinksi (IL) and Henry Cuellar (TX)-- 2 Blue Dog throw-backs-- opposed it. Even anti-marijuana crusader Debbie Wasserman Schultz voted yes! And so did 57 Republicans! Of course-- and this helps explain why independents have such negative feelings about the Republican Party-- 184 Republicans voted NO! The Senate passed a companion amendment with several senators from both parties noting that it would help veterans avoid using dangerous and addictive opiates. Tuesday, California Republican Dana Rohrabacher, who has been a major advocate for legalization in Congress, told marijuana activists he has been using a marijuana-rub to relieve the pain of arthritis.

Among the Republicans voting against the amendment was the ridiculously placed chairman of the House Science Committee, Lamar Smith of Texas-- Austin no less!-- who's living (and legislating) in a different era. No medical marijuana relief for veterans living in Austin, San Antonio, New Braunfels, San Marcos or the Texas Hill country! This morning we contacted a military veteran and winner of the TX-21 Democratic congressional primary, Tom Wakely, who had a very different perspective than Lamar Smith's. "It seems par for the course that Congressman Smith, who refused to provide a hearing on Ron Paul and Barney Frank's resolution to end the federal prohibition of marijuana, would try to make it more difficult for veterans to get access to legal medication in their home state. The constituents of our district favor medical marijuana. San Antonio is a military town and I can guarantee the veterans of this district are just as confused as I am on why Republicans seemingly favor our 10th Amendment except in the case of a proven, harmless drug. I stand with the majority of House Democrats and the few Republicans who recognized this was a common sense vote. Personally, I'd like us to go further and put an end to the federal prohibition of marijuana, allowing the drug be turned over to the states for regulation. By definition that's supposed to be the conservative viewpoint. Then again, it's becoming harder and harder to define the platform of the modern Republican party."

Mario Diaz Balart joined the reactionary Republicans voting against the amendment, the only South Florida congressman to do so. Every Florida Democrat plus Florida Republicans Carlos Curbelo, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and Tom Rooney voted in favor of the amendment but, for some reason, Diaz-Balart decided that veterans in Miami-Dade, Collier and Hendry counties, whose doctors want to prescribe marijuana for pain, sleep or to help with appetite will just have to do without. This morning we contacted the progressive Democratic physician running for the seat Diaz-Balart is sitting in, Alina Valdes, who has a very different perspective than Diaz-Balart, one based on science and humanity. "I have been practicing medicine for over 30 years," she told us, "and that time has been spent in physician shortage areas where people feel disenfranchised because they do not have the resources to make their voices heard especially after the Citizen's United and Corporate Personhood decisions. Many have given up on the political system which does not care about them and their needs. This vote on the use of marijuana to relieve pain and suffering is wrong as many studies have shown the benefits to neurological and musculoskeletal conditions, which many of our vets suffer. To insist that they use traditional opioid BigPharma medications to relieve their symptoms is causing further suffering. Many patients have expressed the desire to be pain free without needing to feel like a zombie while also risking an unintended overdose due to tolerance that is known to develop with these narcotic medications. Many of them use street marijuana and risk arrest and imprisonment because it helps them feel both physically and therefore mentally better.  This is a natural weed with medicinal benefits and is available to many living in states that allow physicians to write these prescriptions. As a general internist, I took an oath to serve, heal, and relieve pain and suffering in so doing. I would personally have no problems prescribing medical marijuana under the appropriate circumstances. To continue to classify marijuana as a class I controlled substance in the same category as heroin and peyote makes no rational sense. It just feeds the inhumane thinking of profits over people in both the pharmaceutical and private prison industries. Our vets especially deserve better than this and it is time for Congress to educate themselves rather than allow their votes to be swayed by big corporate interests funding their re-election campaigns."

And then there was backward Republican multimillionaire and Chris Christie's puppet-congressman Tom MacArthur. He voted against the amendment too, even though every New Jersey Democrat plus New Jersey Republicans Frank LoBiondo and Scott Garrett voted to give the vets a break. MacArthur thinks he has the right to override physicians who want veterans in Burlington and Ocean coutnies to have the opportunity to use medical marijuana if it will help their conditions. This morning we contacted the progressive Democrat running against MacArthur, Jim Keady. "This issue shows a clear difference between myself and my GOP opponent. I believe that we need to make marijuana legal for both medicinal and recreational use at the federal level. We then can regulate it, tax it and use the revenues for tax relief or for a range of social programs," said Keady. "Specific to our Veterans, I was just listening to two Vets who were at my family's tavern the other night; both of them wanted to be able to use marijuana to deal with PTSD. They should be able to do this, legally, anywhere in the United States."

Isn't it time to retire these Republican wastes and replace them with more forward-thinking progressives? Please consider contributing to the grassroots congressional campaigns of Tom Wakely, Alina Valdes and Jim Keady, progressive Democrats in Texas, Florida and New Jersey.
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At 10:39 AM, Blogger Kickyourace said...

First time Keady has mentioned the topic. I've been fighting for it for 40 years to remove Cannabis from any schedule and in fact, no plant should be on the schedule.
Scott Neuman for Ocean County Freeholder. Ocean Anti-Corruption Democrats.

At 6:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr Alina Valdes For Congress CD 25 is ready day one to be your Congresswoman and you can count on her vote. She is for the people and not for the big Corporation and not voting against Obamacare 60 times like Mario Diaz Balart has done. We can never count on him on important issues that effect the people. I hope you all have had enough of him every where we go people tell us they do not like him.. So what does that say of a best Friend of DWS who votes more times with him. Against the TPP and Fast Track and not wanting to lift the Embargo on Cuba. His raking for seniors for a life time is 13% for seniors. WE can go on all day but enough of someone who thinks he is allowed to be in office for a life time. I think his time has come and he should leave. Alone with his BF DWS


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