A bipartisan team has formed in Helena with the goal of getting the state Legislature to allow doctors to prescribe marijuana to military veterans.
State Rep. Rae Peppers, D-Lame Deer, has drafted a bill to allow military veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder to be prescribed medical marijuana. Montana law already allows doctors to prescribe marijuana to treat cancer, glaucoma, HIV and other diseases that cause chronic pain.
This is her second attempt. Peppers already tried to have PTSD, without specifying veterans, added to the medical marijuana list last month but was blocked by the Human Services Committee. The bill failed 6-11.
Committee chair Art Wittich, R-Bozeman, voted yes with five Democrats. Wittich, a Coast Guard veteran, told the committee that the bill would have had a better shot if it was limited to military veterans. Two of the committee’s Democrats who voted no agreed. But afterward, Peppers said she was not allowed to amend the bill.
Undeterred, and with the help of Republican Rep. Doc Moore of Missoula, she is hoping for a different committee with her new bill — the Appropriations Committee. The bill would also give veterans with PTSD a $25 discount on the state’s medical marijuana identification card.
Peppers’ persistence is personal. She learned about PTSD at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. Her son was stationed there after losing his leg in Afghanistan.
And Moore is going to testify in support of the bill not because he experienced PTSD himself after a fatal car crash, but because his friend killed a Viet Cong soldier four decades ago.
“He said, ‘Even though I was a soldier it still bothers me,’” Moore told the Chronicle on Tuesday. “He’s tried to get help a number of times but has never found anything that has really worked for him.”
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that there are just under 100,000 veterans in Montana. Using the department’s estimates, about 15,000 Montana veterans have or are experiencing PTSD.