A group of veterans trooped from McPherson Square to the Department of Veterans Affairs and finally to the White House in Washington D.C., where they dropped empty pill bottles, calling on President Barack Obama and other federal authorities to give veterans access to medical marijuana.
The veterans and protesters claim that Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals are giving too much medications and prescribing significant numbers of psychoactive drugs for patients suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). They want the VA to acknowledge marijuana as a safe substitute to medications usually recommended to veterans.
Protest organizers said approximately 50 people stayed in McPherson Square over the night and slept in tents as part of the rally. While staying in the area, the participants were seen selling marijuana products, giving out cannabis samples and showcasing photos of veterans using pot.
Protesters also planted 22 small American flags at the front of the area to signify the approximate number of veterans committing suicide everyday to depression, pain and other mental distress.
The VA has already recognized that the rate of daily suicide among veterans is between 18-22. However, they said that the said numbers may actually be bleaker than initially believed.
"A patient should have the right to choose the best health care to save his life," commented Brandon Wyatt, 31, an army veteran who rendered military service in Iraq for two years starting in 2003.
At present, the drug treatment recommended by VA is Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) therapy, which involves a range of antidepressant drugs such as paroxetine (Paxil), citalopram (Celexa) and sertraline (Zoloft). According to VA, these medications may help lessen sadness and worried feelings; to some, the drugs appear beneficial while for others, it is very effective.
Aside from drug therapy, two kinds of cognitive behavioral therapy are also advised: Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) and Prolonged Exposure (PE) therapy.
In line with the news, the senate passed the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs (MilCon-VA) Appropriations Bill for 2016 on Tuesday, Nov. 10. The said bill entails VA doctors to prescribe medical marijuana in states where it is legal.
"Veterans in medical marijuana states should be treated the same as any other resident, and should be able to discuss marijuana with their doctor and use it if it's medically necessary," said Michael Collins of Drug Policy Alliance.