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Veterans Ask State Lawmakers To Expand Access To Medical Cannabis

Doug Distaso stands in front of a sign
Doug Distaso, executive director of the Veterans Cannabis Project said he wants to make sure new regulations on medical cannabis in Virginia do more to help patient access, not restrict it. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM)

Veterans lobbied at the state Capitol Tuesday for better access to medical cannabis. The group highlighted legislation this year that would legalize possession of medical cannabis for those who get a prescription and another bill that would create more dispensing facilities. Both have passed the full Senate.

They say the drug helps manage pain from injuries and ease symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

The group included Steve Lambrose, a U.S. Army veteran from Stafford, VA. He said his wife, who is a Marine Corps veteran, suffered physically and mentally while treating her injuries with prescription opioids. But he said her condition improved after using cannabis.

“To have access to cannabis, she would have to do things that are illegal,” he said. “She took a vow, a promise, an oath to uphold the constitution. To be an honorable citizen. To be upright.”

But marijuana possession remains illegal in Virginia. That means patients who’ve registered to take medical cannabis can still be charged with a crime even though current state law allows them to present their prescription as a defense in court.

Doug Distaso, executive director of the Veterans Cannabis Project, said Virginia is on the right track, but he wants to make sure new regulations do more to help patient access.

“There’s a lot of suffering out there that is never going to be recognized until we do something about it federally,” he said. “Because every state, every municipality, gets to fence off their own access decisions.”

Whittney Evans is VPM News’ features editor.
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