Bill would let VA doctors discuss medical marijuana with vets

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WOODBURY -

A bill under consideration in the House of Representatives would allow VA doctors to talk to veteran patients about medical marijuana in states that have legalized the treatment.

Current law prohibits VA doctors from discussing the use of medical marijuana, providing advice on it or giving their opinions on its use.

Army veteran Patrick Donahue, who was deployed to Afghanistan, tells News 12 that marijuana has helped him cope with post-traumatic stress disorder. But it's not prescribed by his VA doctors and they haven't even discussed it as a treatment option, so he smokes it on his own.

"I’m able to be around humans. I feel human again," Donahue explains. “If it’s a crime for me to smoke pot… that stinks, because I don’t like to break the law.” 

Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) says he hasn't yet decided if he'll support the bill under consideration in Congress.

"I spoke with veterans on both sides of the issue. Some think it's very helpful and others think it just masks what the problems are," King says.

Steven Chassman, with the Long Island Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence, says there are no studies that show marijuana is an effective treatment for PTSD. He feels it only masks the problem.

"There are healthier ways to deal with trauma than handing somebody a big bag of pot," Chassman says.

But Donahue says that's not the point.

"Is it masking my symptoms? Yeah. Am I OK with that? Yeah. Because I have to manage them every day, so if I have to mask them, thank you," Donahue says.

Medical marijuana is legal in New York, but not as a treatment for PTSD. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is considering a bill that would add PTSD to the list of approved conditions.

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