In Sarasota, panelists insist cannabis can reduce addictive opioid use

Program focuses on veterans, who are prohibited from using medical marijuana.

SARASOTA — Several panelists made their cases in a Thursday forum for why marijuana should no longer be classified by the federal government as a Schedule 1 drug as dangerous as heroin.

Opoid UseThe program focused on the Herald-Tribune project “Warriors Rise Up,” which found a gaping rift between what many combat veterans want to treat their post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries and what they can legally get.

Rather than a cocktail of painkillers, many veterans prefer the relief they receive from marijuana. Because of marijuana’s Schedule 1 designation under federal law, however, the VA has not considered it an option — even in states that have legalized the drug for medical use.

Project reporter Billy Cox explained that an average of 20.6 veterans commit suicide daily, with 3.8 of those being active-duty personnel. The nation has lost more troops to suicide than to a decade of the global war on terror. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, more than 75,000 Americans with military backgrounds killed themselves in the 10 years from 2005 to 2015.

“How is that acceptable?” Cox said at the event sponsored by the Herald-Tribune. ”… We’re in a crisis right now.”

The Schedule 1 classification is “not only fraudulent policy, it’s immoral,” Cox said.

Veterans Affairs dispenses addictive opioid prescriptions “like candy,” he said. Although the federal government has yet to record a fatality caused by marijuana, opioids continue to be a leading cause of death among addicts.