Why won’t the VA recognize the value of medical marijuana? - Thomas Brennan - Co-Author, Shooting Ghosts - Tuesday 3/20

Why won’t the VA recognize the value of medical marijuana?
Thomas Brennan
Author, Shooting Ghosts
Tuesday 3/20


“Good people don’t smoke marijuana,” that opinion, as absolutely ridiculous as it is absolute, is what Jeff Sessions says about pot smokers when he is being serious.

Here’s what he says, when he says he’s joking, as reported by the NY Times: “As far back as 1986, he joked [I] thought the Ku Klux Klan ‘was okay until I found out they smoked pot.’” 

He’s a Trump-thinker through and through.  Like his boss after the fatal attack by a white-Supremist demonstrator in Charlottesvile, VA, Sessions thinks there are a lot of “good people” pursuing violent, racist exclusion and discrimination – except of course for the ones who use marijuana.

Like President Trump, Attorney General Sessions is obsessed with reversing everything done by Barack Obama, including a policy of tolerance of states that want to legalize either the medical or recreational use of marijuana. Sessions is threatening, admittedly somewhat vaguely, a national crackdown.

Why?  Well, because, Sessions says again and again, marijuana is dangerous.  How dangerous…here’s the official assessment of the DEA, the Drug Enforcement Agency: “No death from overdose of marijuana has been reported.”  May I repeat that? No death from overdose of marijuana has been reported.”

Much more dangerous are the artificial versions of marijuana…pot-substitutes killed as many as 20 people in one recent year.  Of course, if real marijuana were legal, there would be no market for the dangerous fake versions.

But, you want to talk dangerous, overdoses of opioid drugs, legally prescribed, or overprescribed medications, or street mixtures of cheaper heroin or fentanyl are killing more than 90 Americans on average, every day!

One big reason for this is the Obama Justice Department’s collaboration with Conservative Republicans in Congress to gut the DEA’s most aggressive programs for choking off the national distribution of opioids.  Check out our programs with Washington Post reporters Lenny Bernstein and Scott Higham who won a Polk Award for breaking this story.

So, here’s an Obama policy in desperate need of reform.  Can you think of anything useful President Trump or AG Sessions have had to say on this subject?  Me neither.

When it comes to the flood of killing opioids sold in pill-mill clinics, move ‘em by the box-load pharmacies and even dealers on the streets, the so-called national emergency has been placed in the hands of KellyAnne Conway, President Trump’s iconic, if unqualified public relations woman, while the office of Drug Policy and Control is emptied of its professionals and left to be run by a 24 year old campaign envelope-stuffer.

There is, by the way, a legitimate link between opioids and marijuana, but it’s not what Sessions thinks, that they’re both equally dangerous and that pot-smoking leads to opioid, or heroin addiction.  As Richard A. Friedman, the director of the psychopharmacology clinic at the Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City wrote in the New York Times, “Mr. Sessions has it backward. Marijuana isn’t a gateway drug to opioid addiction; it’s a safer alternative to pain medicines.”

Several studies show, when marijuana is made legal, a lot of people taking opioids for chronic pain, switch to pot.  And live longer, and live better. “Between 1999 and 2010,” Dr. Friedman says, “ [a study covering] all 50 states reported a 25 percent decrease in opiate overdose mortality in states where medical marijuana was legal, compared with those where it wasn’t.  In 2010, the last year of the study, the switch from opioids to marijuana saved, researchers estimated, 1729 lives.



Thomas James Brennan  is a retired Marine Corps sergeant who served in Iraq during the Second Battle of Fallujah, and as a squad leader in Afghanistan’s Helmand province with the First Battalion, Eighth Marines. He was medically retired in December 2012 and is a member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart. Since 2012, he has turned to journalism and in 2016 founded The War Horse, a nonprofit investigative newsroom. In March 2017 he broke the nude photo sharing scandal in the military, forcing Pentagon and Congressional investigations that have changed legislation about sexual exploitation across the Department of Defense. Brennan profiled Medal of Honor recipient Kyle Carpenter for Vanity Fair and has been a regular contributor to The New York Times At War blog. His work for At War earned him a 2013 Honorable Mention from the Dart Center at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Brennan was the military affairs reporter at The Daily Newsfrom early 2013 through mid-2014, when he was accepted to the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism. He earned his Masters in Journalism in May 2015. He won the 2014 American Legion Fourth Estate Award for exposing how government sequestration in 2013 hindered mental health care at Camp Lejeune, N.C. and at U.S. military bases worldwide, prompting then-secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to restore staffing and treatment to full capacity across the Department of Defense.










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