Why some N.H. veterans can’t get medical marijuana
During a tour in Iraq, Infantryman Jeremy Sparks’s Army convoy was driving over a bridge when the entire structure collapsed.
“We just dropped, it was like something out of a cartoon,” Sparks said.
The 40-year-old veteran was a rear gunner on a Stryker military vehicle, standing up out of a back hatch when the vehicle careened into the sandy riverbed below. The impact of the fall threw him to the back of the Stryker, giving him such severe whiplash that it herniated two of the major nerves in his neck.
At one point, Sparks took over 20 medications to treat the pain from the nerve damage, as well as symptoms from a traumatic brain injury and PTSD. Sparks has found the best thing to calm his pain and memories of war is marijuana.
Even though therapeutic cannabis is legal in New Hampshire, Sparks and many other veterans face significant hurdles to lawfully obtain it.
Because most veterans get their health care through the federal Veteran’s Administration, their doctors cannot legally recommend they seek medical marijuana, nor certify conditions that would allow them to qualify for a therapeutic cannabis registry card.
“It is always illegal under federal law for a veteran to utilize marijuana, regardless of whether there is a state law allowing for use of marijuana,” VA policy states. “As a result, VA remains consistent whether a veteran is found to have used marijuana through a state-sponsored program or not.”
However, veterans using marijuana cannot not be denied VA services, after a 2011 policy directive was passed. Before that, marijuana users risked being kicked out of the program.
Photo credit: ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff