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Pot for Pain: Medical Marijuana for Veterans


The question of legalizing marijuana is an urgent issue. The representatives of the US government, both Republicans and Democrats, have already established their positions in regards to removing barriers to scientific research and allowing marijuana to be used by veterans for medical purposes. Due to Republican behaviors and attitudes, an amendment to a bill that would support the medical use of marijuana by veterans was blocked (Gaffey). Democrats demonstrated their dissatisfaction with the results and their disappointment at the inability to offer marijuana as a pain reliever and as a possible medication for post-traumatic stress disorder. Both types of statements may be supported and understood because their claims are the “things that are either true or false” (Vaughn 9). People can make mistakes, but they should be ready to defend their positions. This paper argues that the idea of medical marijuana for veterans should be pursued and encouraged by the US government and society only in cases where patients are under the supervision of medical experts and diagnosed with PTSD or have pain symptoms that cannot be effectively treated with other medications.

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Lack of Evidence

Recent clinical trials and medical cases which aim at evaluating the effectiveness of medical marijuana do not provide definitive evidence, leaving this issue controversial and open to discussion. For example, “the use of marijuana should be legal because it’s an act that brings pleasure to people’s lives” (Vaughn 85). However, such statements can provoke the development of new statements like the necessity to legalize all activities and actions which make people happier. The legalization of marijuana is a serious issue in the United States. At this moment, only 29 states and Washington, DC have legalized marijuana, proving that a certain part of the US population is not ready for medical marijuana. There are still risks and threats from using marijuana, including negative impacts on short-term memory, lung tissue damage, a high potential for abuse, homelessness, imprisonment, or even suicide (Gaffey). Because of such uncertainty and the controversial nature of the marijuana discussion, it is hard to prove the correctness of one approach and disprove the validity of another position. Vaughn admits that though such “premise is actually controversial in some quarters… it…is not obviously false” (85). This discussion will focus not on medical cases and trials but on understanding attitudes toward medical marijuana as a treatment solution for veterans who have put their lives at risk to protect every citizen of the United States and the idea of freedom.

Wrong Interpretations of Medical Marijuana

The term ‘medical marijuana’ is not legally accepted in all states of America, a situation that might be explained due to the absence of a clear and definite definition of the term. To support their position, US government representatives usually use such basic concepts as a treatment option, pain reliever, control, and abuse. To avoid misunderstandings and confusion, medical marijuana may refer to an unprocessed plant, or to its extract that is used to relieve pain and treat the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Veterans are subject to different types of disorders, including PTSD, panic, social phobias, anxiety, and sleeping problems. Marijuana is a chance to improve the quality of veterans’ lives, and it should be used under the direction of a medical expert. Still, there is no need for “a rush to judgment” (Vaughn 83). Each idea and each definition should be properly placed to develop a strong and effective discussion on the chosen topic.

Marijuana for Veterans

Attitudes toward marijuana use as a medication for veterans to treat their disorders may depend on the presence or absence of research evidence. “There simply may not be enough evidence to rationally decide” (Vaughn 10). Scientific studies of the chemical composition of marijuana are limited, but the federal government has tried to remove this barrier and for medical purposes (Gaffey). At this moment, there are no large-scale trials which might be able to prove the risks or benefits of medical marijuana. A possibility to be “involved in the controversy” is a good method to develop discussions and find out the truth (Vaughn 64). There is one group of people who believe that marijuana brings nothing but harm and dependence. Patients who start using marijuana for medical purposes observe new symptoms and behavioral changes and put the blame on marijuana as the source of their new problems, their encountering unavoidable complications, or the necessity to deal with new social problems. Another group of people is able to expand their imagination and theoretical basis and accept marijuana as one possible medication. Marijuana emerges as a chance to reduce the level of pain or to cope with the consequences of post-traumatic stress disorder. It might have side effects and lead to abuse. However, every single medication has a list of side effects, contraindications, and requirements. Patients should follow the prescriptions and be careful while taking drugs.

As soon as people gather enough evidence, they are able to “make an intelligent decision” and demonstrate their attitude towards a topic (Vaughn 10). Marijuana may be considered as a type of drug that has its proper dosage and known side effects, and medical workers have to take care of veterans who have been prescribed marijuana as their primary medication. Medical marijuana for veterans may be approved in case three main steps are taken, including diagnosis (post-traumatic stress disorder), the selection of a nurse to follow up on the process of taking the medication, and a determination of the inappropriateness of other drugs to achieve the same results (pain relief) that can be obtained by taking marijuana.

Diagnosis and Medical Marijuana

The first decision that should be made to support the access of veterans to marijuana for medical purposes is based on a properly obtained diagnosis. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a problem for many American veterans. When they return home and interact with a local hospital, they discover that ordinary activities and words do not lead to the expected outcome. A new treatment is required, and new help has to be offered. This type of stress disorder occurs after veterans experience military conflicts, terrorist attacks, serious health problems, or sexual assault. Six out of 10 men and 5 out of 10 women experience a degree of trauma during their military service. They have to learn how to live with their experience, and their PTSD may take different forms, which may require different treatment approaches.

Their decisions should be supported by “good reasons” and strong evidence (Vaughn 7). For example, the investigations of the American Legion, one of the largest wartime veterans associations in the United States, show that more than 6 million lives were saved during the period between 2012 and 2013 after the patients were prescribed with opioids (Gaffey). Such statement is a good premise “given in support of another statement” that marijuana legalization is still a doubtful idea (Vaughn 11). The task of medicine is to save lives, and the task of the government is to provide medical organizations with rights and powers so that they can perform their functions. PTSD is a health problem for which medical experts will have access to all treatment possibilities only after a governmental decision to legalize marijuana as a medical option.

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Medical Responsibility for Marijuana

Another important issue in the promotion of medical marijuana for veterans is the choice of people to take responsibility for the outcomes and the process of taking the medication. It is not enough to select a person and make them responsible for all positive and negative cases of marijuana usage. A professional nurse should know how to cooperate with a patient, in this case a veteran, educate, and define all aspects of treatment to explain why marijuana treatment causes such controversy. A medical expert has to control the usage of marijuana and report on any change that can be observed. To use this idea to support marijuana legalization, it is necessary not “confuse explanations with arguments” (Vaughn 14). In this discussion, the task is to support and use personal knowledge but not to explain and prove an idea theoretically. Marijuana can be safe and helpful if it is taken under qualified medical supervision and with properly given explanations and lessons.

Medical Marijuana as an Alternative

Finally, to be confident that marijuana is a good medical solution for veterans, it is necessary to make sure that no other options can help. Marijuana is still a Schedule I controlled substance (Gaffey). Drugs of this type are considered dangerous for people because they cause abuse and therefore have tight restrictions. In 2016, 66,000 ex-servicemen and women were treated for opioid addictions that were linked to such social problems as prison, homelessness, and suicide (Gaffey). Marijuana can be an alternative, a kind of a “competing theory” that makes sense (Vaughn 45). With its help, veterans can avoid these problems and improve the quality of their lives while dealing with PTSD. It may not be possible to use marijuana for treating serious diseases and health defects. PTSD is a type of disorder that often cannot be survived alone. People must be supported emotionally, psychologically, and medically. The medical marijuana option should be available to veterans not to withhold from them an opportunity to survive the psychological consequences of what they had to observe during their military service.


Traumatic memories are a significant part of veterans’ lives. People with PTSD have to deal with numerous challenges and use their experience at home or in the workplace. PTSD is a disorder that makes a human life harder than it already is, and people should be provided with a possibility to be treated for PTSD. The medical value of marijuana remains controversial in the United States. Republicans do not find it necessary to legalize marijuana for medical purposes, even if they are aware of the possibility of improving people’s lives. The opinions of Democrats are not enough because there are still many people who do not have enough evidence for the positive medical aspects of marijuana. If “there are only two alternatives to consider when there are actually more than two” in this discussion, such fallacy leads to a false dilemma (Vaughn 189). In this paper, the task is not to explain why marijuana should be legalized and available to all American citizens. The goal is rather to show that the available information is enough to prove that veterans deserve the right to use marijuana under the direction of a medical expert as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder when no other options are possible.

Work Cited

Gaffey, Conor. “Pot for Pain: Medical Marijuana for Veterans Blocked as Republicans Shoot Down Bill, but It Could Still Happen.” Newsweek. 2017, Web.

Vaughn, Lewis. The Power of Critical Thinking. 2nd ed., Oxford University Press, 2008.

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