The V.A. Refuses To Pay Their Own Bills: Yet It Is Your Credit Rating That Gets Tanked

The V.A. Refuses To Pay Their Own Bills: Yet It Is Your Credit Rating That Gets Tanked

This post today is a first hand story, not a second, third or any other kind. I know this story is 100% true because it is my own story. There are quite a few issues that I could talk with you about concerning the VA but for the purpose of keeping this post to readable length I am only going to talk about my largest medical bill that is on my personal credit. I have a hospital bill among other medical bills from an event that happened on September 13th, 2011 in N.W. Atlanta Georgia. I had blacked-out face first into an exterior steel doors steel hinges, made me even uglier than I used to be. I got awaken by three of the workers there where I was at. I then drove myself to a clinic there locally where once I had gone inside I blacked out again there. It was only about a quarter of a mile from the clinic to the huge Medical Center Hospital so I was taken by ambulance (unconscious) to the ER. It was three days before I remember anything, I was there five days total and their bill was $60,000 and some change. On day three once I had gotten my consciousness back I remember a few things the Doctor told me about my condition when I came into the ER. I was told that besides not being awake that both of my kidneys had shut down and that my BP was in the 50/20 range and dropping. So, was this hospital bill something that the VA should have paid for? Under the agreement that the VA has with America’s Veterans, this definitely qualified as a life or death emergency wouldn’t it? O, by the way, the reason that my BP tanked the way it did? The Georgia Doctors said that the VA had me on four times too much blood-pressure medicine and that it had kicked me down, very obviously (my opinion) once again, the VA Doctors almost killed me, again.

 

To make this a shorter story the VA has time and again refused to pay the hospital the money owed them. I have been told that it is their opinion that I could have made it to the closest VA, really! Thus being I could have made it to the Atlanta VA Hospital many miles away, it is my bill, not theirs, really! (This is how local Doctors, Clinics, Ambulance services, and Hospitals are being treated all over Our Nation by the VA, REALLY). Besides the fact that these fine people who kept you alive not getting paid for their work preformed, now the bills show up on your credit report. Why doesn’t it show up on the VA’s credit report and leave the people’s credit report alone? If the bill by law belongs to the VA why can that bill be held against the credit and good standing of a person when it is plainly not the persons bill?

 

In this closing paragraph I would like to give you their best slap in the face, your credit. Last summer my wife and I bought a home for the first time in our lives (I did pay off a house for an x-wife but it was never in my name). This $60,000 hospital is on my credit, I have challenged it a couple of times to no avail. This debt made my credit rating dive to about 680 and this forced me to have to go through the VA Loan Program to qualify for a home loan. I am not going to say that the VA system is all bad or that all of their employees are bad, that is not true. I believe I would not be alive today if it weren’t for the VA yet at the same time they have almost killed me several times through their ignorance and apathy (from some). So, what can a little person do when Goliath’s big brother won’t even pay his obligated debts and decides to dump his garbage on you? The only answer I could think of was to throw in my two cents worth on this subject matter which is now finally in the national news through this little blog in which I get to speak with you in.  I hope you have a great week, stay safe, God’s blessings I pray to each of you.

 

 

Heroin: What The Hell Are We Doing To Yourselves Folks?

Heroin: What The Hell Are We Doing To Yourselves Folks?

 

For those of you who do not know me from this blog I will tell you up front that what I am going to say if from my life’s experiences now being over 60 years old. I have never stuck a needle in myself for the purpose of getting some kind of a high, or even to decrease my own pain. I have had medical people do their thing quite a few times where I felt like a wore out pin-cushion before I got out of their care, but I have never stuck myself. I really hope that I do not end up needing Insulin shots someday. But, I have had quite a few folks whom I quickly found out where poking needles in themselves when they would get home from work or on the weekends for the purpose of getting a high was part of their normal day. As I set and watched quite a few people poking themselves or having their friends do it for them and putting them in very painful places, I had to wonder how, how and why they are where they are at this point in their lives? We hear on the news quite often now how Heroin is a major epidemic in many places in America today. I did not know until about a year ago that heroin is actually a very cheep costing drug, I had always though it would be a very expensive drug until I found out it is made from Morphine.

 

For those of you who have decided to first put a needle in yourself, I’m not talking about the first time you let someone else do it to/for you, I’m asking about the first time you yourself stuck a needle in yourself for the purpose of getting high, was it that? Was it in an attempt to get out of some type of pain, mental or physical? If there are ten million people in America alone that put that first drug, that first needle, in our-self, by our-self, are there ten million different stories? Stories of loss, of pain, of stupidity? In the ‘wired world’ about everyone has to have heard a lot of really bad things about this drug getting a power over you that you can no longer control so why? Why did you do that to yourself? All of the people who I knew way back then are gone now, old memories, I don’t know of any that made it anywhere near fifty. I have seen a few cases where people gradually got off of the drugs they were shooting up by turning more and more to the use of marijuana to calm themselves and start to see the world clearer and got themselves off of their own personal demon. I have learned and seen that marijuana is really a ‘step down drug’ that does help some folks, this ‘medication’ being illegal is insane and inhumane. There is another absolute fact and that is where Marijuana is a legal drug, pain pill use goes way down. Heroin or Morphine pills or how about the God-given medicine instead of the hundreds of billions of dollars spent on these pills, and then there is this Demon called Heroin that is killing so many people. The ‘War On Drugs’ got this part backwards folks. Drugs like Heroin are a disease on the human race as are these millions of ‘Pill Heads’ that the system is helping fan the flames of.

Brooking’s Institute looks at the human side of medical cannabis policy

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTE)

 

FIXGOV

In a new documentary short, Brooking’s looks at the human side of medical cannabis policy

John Hudak and George Burroughs

Medical cannabis is an increasingly available, alternative medicine that tens of thousands of Americans are turning to in an effort to get relief from their symptoms. Jennifer Collins is one such patient. On Wednesday, Brookings released “The Life She Deserves,” a documentary short profiling Jennifer’s struggle with an epilepsy disorder and with the public policies that have stood between her and the medical intervention her doctors recommended. In Brookings’s first use of this medium, the film tells both a personal and a policy story, highlighting the human side of a public policy failure.

Jennifer’s Story

At a young age, Jennifer was diagnosed with Jeavons Syndrome, an epilepsy disorder characterized by frequent seizures that often present as a fluttering of the eyes. During these seizures, Jennifer loses awareness of her surroundings. Those smaller seizures—which can number in the hundreds per day—can also cluster into a more serious and dangerous grand mal seizure, of which Jennifer has suffered many.

With the diagnosis, Jennifer’s doctors began a standard pharmaceutical regimen that ultimately culminated in more than a dozen pills daily and maximum adult doses of powerful anti-seizure medications. Those medicines came with side effects that included mania and suicidal ideation. Ultimately, pharmaceuticals were unable to help with Jennifer’s seizures and the side effects became overwhelming. Desperate for a solution, Jennifer’s parents read online about children moving to Colorado to access non-intoxicating, cannabis-based medicines to treat conditions like hers.

“The Life She Deserves” profiles the difficult choices the Collins family faced and explores what many patients and families sacrifice in order to get medical relief. Whether it is for a child with epilepsy, a young woman battling breast cancer, an Iraq War veteran with PTSD, or an elderly woman with chronic arthritis, accessing medical cannabis often requires weighing steep costs against the benefits.

Jennifer is a unique individual who has bravely fought both a chronic condition and a dysfunctional public policy system from a young age. Her story tells us as much about a strong young woman from Virginia facing a significant, ongoing health challenge as it does about a system of laws in which federal policy contradicts both itself and numerous state laws. Her story is one that is relatable to patients and the family members, friends, and colleagues of patients who see what Jennifer and her family have seen: cannabis-based medicines can provide relief in some patients. However, Jennifer’s story is not a unique one.

“The Life She Deserves” shows the overwhelming challenges that government can pose when it comes between doctors and patients, researchers and science. The film also highlights what has become a new normal in this country: the medical cannabis industry. Cannabis growers and sellers are not a group of sinister drug peddlers, operating in the shadows. The film highlights how a husband-wife duo responsibly cultivate cannabis in a heavily regulated system. And the seller is a rabbi who, inspired by his father-in-law’s decades-long battle with MS, opened a family business where he dispenses cannabis to a wide variety of patients—just a stone’s throw from the same institutions of government that label him a narco-trafficker.

Remarkably, in 2018, the idea of medical cannabis has become normal and mainstream. But as we explore in “The Life She Deserves,” the health challenges that draw people to it are devastating and the failure to implement effective policies forces them to make major sacrifices in order to access treatment they need.

A new format for Brookings analysis

It was clear that Brookings needed to explore a new medium beyond the white paper in order to peel back the stigma that continually cloaks medical cannabis. By producing a documentary, we were able to sit across the kitchen table from Beth and Pat Collins, at their home as they shared their difficult journey. We learned what the viewers of this film quickly learn: they’re just two parents who want to give their daughter a normal life. Because of this medium’s ability to create intimacy, the viewer gets see how government policy and the human experience collide to tell a compelling story. And Brookings is in a unique position for storytelling. The institution delivers in-depth analysis that can be presented with the human experience, positive or negative. What Brookings needed was a vehicle for such work. The documentary is precisely that vehicle.

In addition to home videos of Jen’s childhood and footage of Beth Collins testifying at the state legislature, maybe the most poignant moments in the film are of silence. In “The Life She Deserves” Jen reflects on the long road she’s traveled and where she is headed. When she pauses to collect her thoughts, in that silence we can see the severity of what she has been through—an emotion that words could not capture. At that moment we get a rigorously honest look at the pain she has experienced and the strength and courage it took to survive and talk about it. This is the power of storytelling and this is the power of the documentary. We live in a time when many in our country—on both sides of the aisle—see many areas of public policy as broken. Like Jen, millions of Americans feel the effects of those policy failures every day. The opportunity for effective policy storytelling has never been greater, and at Brookings we’re looking forward to telling many more.

Medical Cannabis: A Broken Policy

Authors

To those familiar with the world of medical cannabis, it is no secret that public policy in this area is broken. We have written extensively at Brookings about the numerous policy problems including banking, taxes, interstate access, and others. “The Life She Deserves” focuses on some of the most glaring issues facing patients themselves—an often-overlooked area. And the main issue that impacts patients, even more than access, is how little is known about how to maximize the benefits of cannabis to treat different conditions effectively. The U.S. government has made expanding that knowledge extraordinarily difficult.

Beyond the U.S. government declaring that the cannabis is illegal, federal policy also adds layers of bureaucracy that make research into the medical value of cannabis much harder. In fact, researching cannabis is more bureaucratically challenging than researching any other substance designated Schedule I—the nation’s highest level of drug control.

There is no excuse for a government that makes research more difficult to conduct. Those efforts are anti-science and ensure that politics influences the pursuit of scientific answers. Compounding the problem is that as more states pass reforms that label cannabis as medicine, there is increased demand for answers about the substance’s medical value. There is an ever-present and growing need to ask more questions about cannabis, not fewer. As more patients use this substance in an effort to relieve symptoms, the federal government should be committed to helping understand this area of science.

After all, what could the federal government fear from more research? In fact, no one in the nation—regardless of views on cannabis—should oppose expanded research. As we have written before, if you are an avowed opponent of cannabis and believe it is dangerous, it has no medical value, is highly addicting, and is a gateway drug, you should encourage more research that will demonstrate those findings. Those findings would be a wakeup call to many patients and, more importantly, to policy makers at the state level. For those who support medical cannabis and believe it is a miracle drug that can cure everything from a cough to cancer, you, too, should demand more research to demonstrate not simply medical value, but the precise ways in which cannabis interacts with bodily systems to provide relief and cures. Finally, if you don’t really care about cannabis, the current policy should bother you. Federal government intervention in science should terrify you.

When government impedes researchers from asking the questions they believe are important and conducting research in ways that their expertise and medical literature suggest are critical, the substance should not matter. The principle matters. In a time of an unpopular president, an embarrassingly unpopular Congress, and trust in government at near-historic lows, who should you trust to steer the ship of science: a physician and medical researcher from Michigan or a guy who happens to represent Kalamazoo in Congress?

As Patrick and Beth Collins note in “The Life She Deserves,” one of the biggest challenges facing medical cannabis patients is a lack of understanding about exactly which cannabis-based products assist with which conditions. There is also a deficit of information about dosing, interactions, side effects, and a host of other characteristics that patients are used to knowing about medicines that they take. Part of the blame rests with states moving forward to bring to market cannabis-based medicines without their enduring the normal regulatory processes we expect in the United States. However, much of the blame rests with a federal government that has allowed a racially-motivated, institutionally perpetuated policy overwhelm a commonsense approach that would remove unnecessary bureaucracy from blocking research.

Many patients will tell you that there is no question that cannabis helps them (although there are a number of patients who will also say that it does little for them). The biggest question that remains, however, is whether the federal government will stop politicizing research and help facilitate answers to the questions that patients are demanding.

The human cost of leaving patients and families to fend for themselves is clear, in Jen’s case as we see in “The Life She Deserves,” and in countless other households.

Senator Chuck Schumer to Unveil Bill Decriminalizing Marijuana at the Federal Level

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME NEWS)

 

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks during a news conference following weekly policy luncheons on Capitol Hill on April 10, 2018 in Washington, D.C.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks during a news conference following weekly policy luncheons on Capitol Hill on April 10, 2018 in Washington, D.C.
Zach Gibson/Getty Images
By KATIE REILLY

Updated: April 19, 2018 5:39 PM ET

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is planning to introduce a bill on Friday that would decriminalize marijuana at the federal level, he said in a new interview with VICE News.

“The legislation is long overdue based on, you know, a bunch of different facts. I’ve seen too many people’s lives ruined because they had small amounts of marijuana and served time in jail much too long,” Schumer said in a video clip shared by VICE News on Thursday. “Ultimately, it’s the right thing to do. Freedom. If smoking marijuana doesn’t hurt anybody else, why shouldn’t we allow people to do it and not make it criminal?”

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Matt House, Schumer’s communications director, said in a tweet that the Senator will unveil the bill on Friday — 4/20, a day that has become a celebration of marijuana. House teased the interview with a photo of Schumer signing a bong for VICE’s Shawna Thomas, who conducted the interview. The full interview will air at 7:30 p.m. Thursday on HBO.

Schumer had previously been hesitant to support legalizing marijuana at the federal level. “It’s a tough issue. We talk about the comparison to alcohol — and obviously alcohol is legal, and I’m hardly a prohibitionist — but it does a lot of damage,” Schumer said in an MSNBC interview in 2014. “The view I have — and I’m a little cautious on this — is let’s see how the state experiments work.”

“I’d be a little cautious here at the federal level and see the laboratories of the states — see their outcomes before we make a decision,” Schumer added.

Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in 2012, and six states have followed since then. But Attorney General Jeff Sessions has begun to crack down on the marijuana industry this year, angering lawmakers and cannabis growers in states where it is legal.

Schumer hinted Thursday that he has changed his mind on the issue, tweeting, “People can change.”

Rare Case of ‘Coffin Birth’ Seen in Medieval Grave

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SMITHSONIAN.COM)

 

 Keeping you current

Rare Case of ‘Coffin Birth’ Seen in Medieval Grave

The pregnant woman’s remains may also suggest that she underwent cranial surgery due to a life-threatening complication

image: https://thumbs-prod.si-cdn.com/Y5XiLmzn3a7DJYnlDvURTXfMEzE=/800×600/filters:no_upscale()/https://public-media.smithsonianmag.com/filer/9e/2a/9e2ad085-f6ec-4a56-a045-3703abf06653/coffinbirth.png

coffin birth

(Pasini et al./World Neurosurgery/Elsevier)
SMITHSONIAN.COM

At some point in the 7th or 8th century, a pregnant woman died and was buried in the medieval Italian town of Imola. There is, sadly, nothing unusual about that. But when the woman’s grave was discovered in 2010, two very strange details emerged. First, a cluster of tiny bones lay between the woman’s legs—the remains of her fetus, which appeared to have been born after her death. Archaeologists also observed a small hole in the mother’s skull, amplifying the mystery of her demise.

Now, as Brandon Specktor reports for Live Scienceresearchers have published a paper in World Neurosurgery that seeks to unpack what happened to the woman before and after she died.

The unfortunate mother’s remains were found face-up in a stone grave, suggesting that she had been deliberately buried. Analysis by scientists at the University of Ferrara and University of Bologna revealed that the woman was between 25 and 35 when she died. Her fetus, whose gender could not be determined, appeared to have reached the 38th week of gestation, making it just two weeks shy of full term.

According to Gizmodo’s George Dvorskythe baby’s legs were still inside its mother, but the head and upper body appeared to have been born after she died. The authors of the study suggest that the burial offers a rare example of “post-mortem fetal extrusion,” or “coffin birth,” which occurs when gases build up inside of the body of a deceased pregnant woman and force the fetus out of the birth canal. This gruesome phenomenon has only infrequently been observed in the archaeological record.

Scientists were just as intrigued by the mysterious hole in the woman’s skull. Measuring 4.6 mm in diameter, the hole was neat and clean, which suggests that it was not inflicted in a violent attack. It is more likely, according to the study authors, that the hole was drilled into the woman’s skull as part of a crude surgical procedure known as trepanation. The surgery was performed as early as the Neolithic era and was thought to relieve a variety of ailments, from high fever, to convulsions, to intracranial pressure. The woman’s skull also bore signs of a small, linear incision, which may show where her scalp was peeled back in preparation for the trepanation.

Why would medieval doctors perform such a dramatic procedure on a heavily pregnant woman? Researchers cannot be certain, but they theorize that the mother might have been suffering from preeclampsia or eclampsia, pregnancy-related complications that are characterized by high blood pressure, impaired liver function and—in the case of eclampsia—seizures. As the authors of the study note, common manifestations of these conditions also include symptoms like fevers, intra-cranial pressure and cerebral hemorrhages, which, prior to the 20th century, were treated with trepanation.

Scientists were able to observe signs of healing on the woman’s skull, leading them to believe that she died about a week after the procedure. It remains unclear if her death was caused by a hypertensive pregnancy condition, the surgery or some other complication, but the research team is nevertheless excited by the discovery. Evidence of trepanation has been found in many ancient archaeological remains, but signs of the surgery are rarely seen in skulls that date to the European Middle Ages. The postmortem “coffin birth” makes the woman’s grave a doubly unusual discovery—one that might very well shed light on how medieval doctors tried to help at-risk pregnant women.

About Brigit Katz

Brigit Katz is a freelance writer is based in Toronto. Her work has appeared in a number of publications, including NYmag.com, Flavorwire and Tina Brown Media’s Women in the World.

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Watch Out, Ted Cruz. Beto is Coming

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

Watch Out, Ted Cruz. Beto is Coming.

Image
Beto O’Rourke at Natachee’s Supper ’n Punch restaurant in Houston.CreditBryan Schutmaat for The New York Times

HOUSTON — Count me among the swelling ranks of the infatuated. I, too, have been Beto-struck.

I have seen the alternative to Ted Cruz — Lord knows we need an alternative to Ted Cruz — and he’s a peppy, rangy, toothy progressive with ratios of folksiness to urbanity and irreverence to earnestness that might well have been cooked up in some political laboratory. Could that formula enable Representative Beto O’Rourke, a Texas Democrat, to wrest Cruz’s seat in the Senate from him in November?

By now you’ve probably heard of Beto — seemingly no one calls him by his surname — and that in and of itself is a marvel. When else has a long-shot Senate candidate with no prior celebrity drawn so much coverage? He has been the subject of lengthy profiles in The Times, The Washington Post, Politico, Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair, which bestowed upon him the mightiest political adjective of them all: “Kennedyesque.”

He even appeared last month on Bill Maher’s HBO show, generating headlines with his response to Maher’s characterization of Cruz.

“Don’t forget,” Maher said, “he’s a giant asshole.”

“That’s true,” Beto concurred.

It was a naughty swerve from his usual niceness, and over lunch in Houston on Thursday, he told me that he regretted it.

“I think I was just moving the conversation along,” Beto said. “Anyhow, I don’t think that Ted Cruz is an asshole.”

“You don’t?” I asked, incredulous.

“I certainly don’t think that publicly,” he answered.

Cruz is a rare and precious gift. He’s so loathed that any passable Democrat with a picayune chance of toppling him was bound to draw more attention and inspire more hope than the political dynamics warranted. While President Trump’s unpopularity endangers his party’s incumbents far and wide and Texas may indeed be getting bluer, the state has been very red for very long. The last time a Democrat won statewide office was 24 years ago.

But Beto is more than passable. Many of his campaign events are mobbed. People line up for selfies and then insist on hugs.

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Beto O’Rourke at a town hall meeting at the University of Houston on Thursday.CreditBryan Schutmaat for The New York Times

He’s raising money like mad. Last week he disclosed that in the first quarter of 2018 he took in $6.7 million, bringing his total haul to $13.2 million, which handily outpaces Cruz and is more than any Texas Democrat running for the Senate ever amassed. All of that cash came from individuals. He has sworn off money from PACs.

“Even the most skeptical person has to acknowledge that there’s something going on here,” Jim Henson, the director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin, told me. “But is it something that can overcome the deep hole that any Democratic candidate in this state is in?”

Beto’s answer to those odds is an oddball campaign. This has freed him to be freewheeling. He has no speechwriter, because he never speaks from a fixed script. He has no pollster, because he’s not going by polls.

“No political consultant worth their salt would allow us to go to college campuses, because young people don’t vote,” he told a group of Latino leaders during a meeting on Thursday that I accompanied him to. “That’s why we don’t have a political consultant.”

His next event, in fact, was at the University of Houston.

He was driving himself from stop to stop in a rented red Dodge Caravan. There was a banana and bag of nuts beside him; his two campaign aides — the entirety of his traveling entourage — huddled with their smartphones in the back. “Their highest value in the car is cranking on stuff,” he told me. The steering and navigation could be left to him.

His Facebook followers already know this, because he does Facebook Live streams of much of his day, recounting all manner of tedium. Midday Wednesday he filled in followers on an electricity mishap during a convenience-store bathroom break. “I’m in the stall,” he recalled. “The lights are cut. Pitch black. I just freeze.”

On Thursday night, viewers beheld the action-packed minutes of him refueling the Caravan. “Our purchase came to $44.45,” he narrated. “Your contributions literally go into the gas tank.”

In late January, he did a 24-hour Facebook Live beginning with a run with several hundred supporters at dawn and continuing through a chat with all-night street cleaners. (When he had to shower or such, his wife, Amy, kept viewers engaged.)

I asked him why.

“How do I get your attention?” he answered. “You’ve seen politics before. You’ve seen the well-produced ads where I’m holding my wife’s hand and our kids are running down a hillside. You’re sick of that. How do I honor what’s going on now? Politics are changing dramatically. People are really looking for the most transparent, honest, direct way to connect with one another. And we’re going to find it.”

Beto, 45, lives in El Paso, grew up there and has spent most of his life in Texas, apart from college at Columbia University, where he majored in English. He and Amy have three children, ages 7, 9 and 11. He started a small technology company before he served on the El Paso City Council and then in Congress.

That background has somehow given him enough material that whenever a voter asks him a question — about health care or school safety or the treatment of veterans — he’s able to draw on some personal anecdote. After a town hall meeting on Thursday, two of the attendees whom I interviewed separately used the same adjective to praise him: “Relatable.”

He hits so many right notes that it’s eerie. During campaign swings last summer, when school was out, the family camped out at night in state parks. His two youngest kids learned all the words to George Strait’s “Amarillo by Morning” before an event in Amarillo, which they opened with an a cappella rendition.

He’s quick to validate voters’ ill will toward federal lawmakers, and he said, during that town hall, that only 9 percent of Americans approve of Congress. “You know that communism has an approval rating of 10 percent,” he added. “Chlamydia is at 8 percent. So Congress is in the sweet spot. But watch out! The chlamydia lobby is working it hard and they are going to move up and surpass Congress soon.”

But he’s also careful to praise his colleagues in the House. “There’s so much talent in the Democratic caucus,” he told me, “from Joaquin Castro to Cheri Bustos to Joe Kennedy to Hakeem Jeffries.” In that one seemingly off-the-cuff sentence, he managed to include a fellow Texan, a storied dynasty, both genders and multiple regions and races.

He talks about fried catfish one second, James Joyce the next. (The older of his two sons is named Ulysses.) He’s fluent in classic punk rock and contemporary country. He’s fluent in Spanish, too.

He’s clear about his beliefs that health care should be guaranteed, marijuana should be legal, Trump should be impeached and the border wall is ridiculous. That puts him to the left of many Texans. But he’s just as voluble about his exhausting effort to visit every county in Texas, including the most staunchly conservative ones, and about the need for people of all political stripes to be respected.

Beto is more than the anti-Cruz. He’s a political fable, holding out the happy if far-fetched possibility that a candidate’s effervescence matters more than a state’s partisan breakdown and that gumption beats any focus group.

“People are watching,” he told his town hall audience. “If we win this race in the right way, I guarantee you, it is going to change politics in the United States going forward.”

I invite you to follow me on Twitter (@FrankBruni) and join me on Facebook.

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook and Twitter (@NYTopinion), and sign up for the Opinion Today newsletter.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page SR3 of the New York edition with the headline: Watch Out, Ted Cruz. Beto is Coming.. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

Biggest Opium Pushers In U.S. Are: U.S. Politicians & AG Jeff Sessions

In the United States, we have been hearing a lot about the drugs that are made from this plant over the past few years. I admit to those of you who don’t know me that I am neither a scientist, psychotherapists nor a medical doctor. I am just an average 61-year-old person who reads a lot and who pays attention to reality the best that I can. Even though I am not the smartest person in the U.S. I am a person that strives to be bluntly honest about everything even if I don’t personally like the results of the answer. Truth has ‘no spin’ to it! I have said a few times before on this website that there really is only one real Truth, and that is ‘God’s’ Truth. When you/we/I have an argument concerning any issue, if we can honestly say that we would stand before our Creator, look Him in His eyes and tell Him that we are speaking the Truth, then that argument would be the Truth, to the very best of our personal knowledge anyways. Either that, or we would be acting like a total idiot and or a fool because we would be condemning our own self on purpose.

I have a question for each of us, do we/you/I believe that the politicians in D.C. are looking out for our best interest or their own best interest? Do you believe that your Congressman/woman, Senator or President cares more about you, or about the lobbyist who is funding their next campaign and or their personal lifestyle? Now, before I get into the meat of this article on the Opium issue I will tell you up front that Marijuana legalization is something that I totally agree with. I believe, excuse me, I know, that Marijuana helps with nerve pain, I am 100% sure of that. Back when I was in the U.S. Army I was directly struck by a lightning bolt. Even Social Security says I am disabled even though the VA doesn’t agree that the lightning has anything to do with me being disabled no matter what the non-VA Doctors and other experts have to say about it. As most of you know the Federal Government and the crooked ignorant putz AG Jeff Sessions say that Marijuana is just as or even more dangerous than Heroin and they class Marijuana as a class one narcotic, just like Heroin. To believe the Federal Government’s argument a person would have to be either clueless just plain ignorant or ‘on the take.’ The Feds say that Marijuana has no medical value even though that is totally contrary to all of the scientific evidence that says the Feds are lying.

So, the argument comes down to, why does the Fed’s keep lying? Or, do you really believe they are simply that ignorant? As long as the Federal government continues this policy the VA is not allowed to prescribe Marijuana to the service-connected disabled Veterans. The VA has no problem pumping many billions of taxpayer dollars worth of pills into the disabled Vets every year whether we need them or not but they refuse to allow the Veterans to use God’s given Herbs for pain relief. What is even worse is that if the VA in one of their blood or urine test finds THC from Marijuana in your system, they will cold turkey you off of the drugs they are giving/selling to you. This is even though doing this to people on some of these medications can easily kill a person. Why would any remotely honest or caring person do that to people? The answer to this is simple folks, its money.

For those of you who don’t believe me, I am going to offer you some cold hard facts as to why I used the title of this article. Even if you are a person who says they would never ever smoke Marijuana, does that mean that you have any right to insist that others cannot, no matter what? I am going to use last November’s Elections in Arizona as a perfect example. This example shows just how dirty big Pharma is, I am going to show you just how much they want people to die from Opium use and the reason is simple, money!

Within everyone’s brain, there is what is called an MU Opioid Receptor. This is something that Opium sticks to in a person’s brain. Morphine is an Opioid drug, just like Heroin is so I am going to use them in this example. Even though Pharma made drugs like Morphine and Oxycontin are very expensive even on the street drugs like Heroin are amazingly cheap. Yet there is another man-made drug called Fentanyl, a synthetic form of Heroin that is even cheaper and easier to make than regular Heroin. Trouble is this that this street drug Fentanyl is about 100 times more powerful than Heroin and it is very deadly even to come into contact with very much of it at all. Fentanyl has become a major problem for first responders, EMS and Police as they do come into contact with it many times every day. These days Ambulances and Police Vehicles are being required to carry the ‘antidote’ for their own safety’s sake.

This ‘antidote’ is called Narcan and Narcan is a drug that is big Pharma made and distributed. Concerning Opium products like Heroin and Morphine the antidote, Narcan works quite well at knocking the Opium off of the MU Receptor yet it does very little to help get the Fentanyl off of the MU Receptor. Don’t get me wrong, people are still dying every day from Opioid overdoses also. The Fed said that Opioid overdoses are up more than 400% here in the U.S. since the year 2000. The big Pharma company’s who make Narcan know this fact very well, so do the politicians yet they prove to all of us that they do not care about all of these thousands of people who are dying nor their families, nor even the First Responders.

Now back to the 2016 Elections in the State of Arizona. The facts show that in the States that have made recreational Marijuana legal that Opioid overdoses and deaths are down about 50%. On a side note, in these states alcohol sales are down about 25%, think of how many people aren’t getting into car accidents because of drinking and driving. Also, think of how many domestic violence deaths aren’t happening in those States and how many fatal ‘bar fights’ aren’t happening. Yet the reality is that big Pharma companies make billions from their pharmacy-made drugs so just like last November in Arizona they pumped in many millions of dollars in false advertisements to try to get the people of Arizona to vote down making Marijuana legal in their State. The sad part is, they were successful in Arizona. The big Pharmaceutical companies have been pushing hard to get Narcan into every ambulance, police car, school, and home in America. There is only one reason for this and that is money, to heck with people’s lives, the only thing that really matters is a company’s profits. These Pharmaceutical companies know that Marijuana is a natural painkiller but they aren’t making any money off of a plant that anyone can grow in their own garden. Now, you do understand why I said that the politicians and people like AG Jeff Sessions want to keep Marijuana illegal don’t you? The answer is very simple, campaign contributions from these big Pharma Companies and because of many who own stocks in these same big Pharma Companies.

 

Here are some of the companies who put huge amounts of money into last November’s ‘anti-pot’ vote in Arizona. I got this information from (The Guardian, US News And World Report, Business Insider, the Huffington Post, and from Equities.com News.)

These companies are:

Chandler Pharma

Insys Therapeutics

Pfizer Inc

Walgreens Boot’s Alliance Inc

Amphastar Pharmaceuticals Inc

Mylan N.V.

Opnet Technologies Inc

 

Veterans Overwhelmingly Favor Medical Marijuana

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘TASK & PURPOSE’)

 

Veterans Overwhelmingly Favor Medical Marijuana. When Will VA And Lawmakers Get On Board?

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An overwhelming majority of U.S. military veterans and veteran caregivers support the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes, according to a new national poll by Five Corner Strategies conducted on behalf of the American Legion — and veterans aren’t going to stop until the Department of Veterans Affairs starts taking medical marijuana research seriously.

The poll found that while 82% of respondents supported the legalization of medical cannabis, a whopping 92% supported expanded research into the medical benefits of the drug. And that attitude cuts across political boundaries: 88% of respondents who self-identified as “conservative” and 90% of self-identified “liberals” supported a federal legalization effort.

Medical cannabis is currently only legal in 29 states and the District of Columbia; yet, it is unlawful for VA doctors to prescribe it since marijuana remains a Schedule 1 substance — forcing vets to use medical cannabis at their own risk or not at all. Further, shortfalls in funding, restrictive eligibility criteria for a recently approved federal study specific to vets, and little support from the VA has prevented any policies from moving forward in Washington, despite a growing acceptance of marijuana to mitigate pain and mental-health issues.

RELATED: LAWMAKERS ARE URGING THE VA TO TAKE MEDICAL MARIJUANA FOR VETERANS SERIOUSLY »

According to the American Legion’s new poll, one in five veterans surveyed consume marijuana “to alleviate a medical or physical condition.” Ironically, the majority of those using medicinal pot are over the age of 60, despite support for the practice declining among older respondents, where 100% of 18-30-year-old respondents favored federally legalized medical marijuana, only 79% of sexagenarians agreed.

Following the release of the poll, conducted by national PulsePoint IVR on 802 self-identified veterans (513 respondents) and veteran caregivers (289) between Oct. 8 and Oct. 10, 2017, on Capitol Hill on Nov. 2, the American Legion, in conjunction with members of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, called upon Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin to push for new research despite an increasingly obstinate approach to legalization by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

“In order to keep veterans safe, we need to listen then,” Rep. Mark Takano, a Democrat from California and vice ranking member on the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, told the assembled crowd. “When a majority of veterans say medical cannabis has the potential to provide relief, we need to listen to them … If the VA’s research confirms that medical cannabis can be effective, it can have a transformative effect of veterans care while preventing veterans from lipping into the trap of opioid addiction.”

veterans medical marijuana research

The poll is the culmination of a growing push to change the federal government’s approach to veterans and medical marijuana. In a Oct. 26 letter to Shulkin, lawmakers on the House Committee on Veterans Affairs called on the VA to initiate renewed research into the medical benefits of legal cannabis, citing both a rising chorus of veterans advocacy organizations like the American Legion and the opioid epidemic that the Trump administration declared a national health emergency the same day.

While the VA has done little to move the needle on medical marijuana research, Shulkin has personally said he’s open to exploring alternative therapies, including medicinal weed, if they benefit veterans and their care.

“We are acutely aware of the work that’s going on around the country, particularly in states that have legalized medical marijuana,” Shulkin toldTask & Purpose in a June 12 interview. “And we are observing very closely work that’s being done that may be helping veterans, and we are open to any ideas and therapies that may be effective.”

VA Secretary David Shulkin on Medical Marijuana For Vets
In an exclusive sit-down interview with Task & Purpose June 12, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin made clear his department would pursue any emerging therapy with promise for disabled or troubled veterans — including medical marijuana. Here’s what he said.

National attitudes toward marijuana legalization have come a long way in recent years: According to an Oct. 25 Gallup poll conducted around the same time as the American Legion survey, a majority of registered Republicans are in support of marijuana legalization for the first time in a half-century. But even with public support for recreational marijuana legalization at an all-time high, only 64% are in favor of ending the federal prohibition on the substance — well below the levels of support detailed among veterans and military families in recent surveys.

While many veterans and doctors are already working to circumvent the VA’s existing medical marijuana policies, as Task & Purpose reported in October, it’s those changing attitudes among military and VA officials that will shape the course of medical marijuana research.

RELATED: HOW VETS AND THEIR DOCTORS ARE GETTING AROUND THE VA’S MEDICAL MARIJUANA POLICY »

“As we researched, we came across veterans who said that the only reason they were alive today and didn’t commit suicide was because they found medical cannabis,” Lou Celli, the American Legion’s national director of veterans affairs and rehabilitation, said on Nov. 2. “But you and I know we can’t change policy based on anecdotes. We need facts in order to have a meaningful discussion. And in order to get evidence and facts, we must do clinical research.”

WATCH NEXT:

VA Secretary Shulkin: ‘I’ll Have The Veterans’ Backs’
In an exclusive interview with Task & Purpose June 12, VA Secretary David M. Shulkin emphasized the importance of keeping a strong VA — and not privatizing all its services — to foster deeper trust between service members and the nation they serve.

 

Jared Keller is a senior editor at Task & Purpose and contributing editor at Pacific Standard. Follow Jared Keller on Twitter @JaredBKeller
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Anthony Borges: Parkland High School Hero: Has Finally Left Hospital

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

 

A Parkland student shielded others with his body — and is the last to leave the hospital alive

 April 4 at 12:01 PM 

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel holds the hand of 15-year-old Parkland survivor Anthony Borges on Feb. 18. (Broward County Sheriff’s Office/AP)

Nearly two months after Anthony Borges was shot numerous times while shielding classmates from gunfire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the 15-year-old has been released from the hospital, his attorney said.

The boy had barricaded a door to try to protect fellow students during a school shooting Feb. 14 in Parkland, Fla., according to CNN.

Seventeen students and staff members were killed, and 17 others were injured in the attack. Anthony was shot five times and, after weeks in the hospital, is the last of the wounded survivors to go home, according to CNN.

Anthony told NBC’s “Today” show Wednesday morning that he had thought he was “going to die” and now feels lucky to be alive.

“I feel good,” the teen said.

Anthony’s attorney, Alex Arreaza, said Wednesday that the teen was released over the weekend and that, although he is thinner and weak, Anthony is in “good spirits.”

Arreaza told The Washington Post that one bullet had “clipped” the teen’s liver and three others had hit his legs. He said that because of the teen’s injuries, doctors had to remove part of one of his lungs.

Arreaza said that Anthony cannot speak for long periods of time without becoming winded and that the teen will need physical therapy and possible treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. But, he said, the teen is “happy he’s home.”

“He’s a little shellshocked right now,” Arreaza said. “But his spirits changed completely once he got home. The most noticeable thing is that he was smiling a lot more.”

TODAY

@TODAYshow

The most gravely wounded survivor of the Parkland school shooting speaks exclusively to @kerrynbc

Arreaza said it’s unclear at this time whether the teen will return to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. He said last month that the teen’s family intends to sue Broward County, Broward County Public Schools and the Broward County Sheriff’s Office for failing to protect the students.

Hundreds of Anthony’s fellow students returned to school earlier this week from spring break and were confronted with a new normal: added security, identification badges and clear plastic book bags.

In a memo to parents, school principal Ty Thompson likened the new security procedures to “when you enter a sporting event, concert, or even Disney World,” according to the Associated Press.

“As a first step, we are looking to see if we can get the kids through these entrances in a timely manner,” the principal wrote. “It is very difficult to balance both convenience/privacy with safety/security; if there is more of one, the other often suffers, but I will do my best to balance the two.”

Carly Novell, a senior and editor of the school newspaper, posted a photo of a clear backpack Monday on Twitter, joking, “But how satisfying would it be to put glue all over this backpack and peel it off.”

Carly Novell@car_nove

But how satisfying would it be to put glue all over this backpack and peel it off

“On the real though, I want my privacy and my comfort. I don’t have that in school. I barely even have my education in school anymore,” she said in a subsequent tweet, pushing back against the new security protocol.

Carly Novell@car_nove

These backpacks don’t protect us. We aren’t any safer than we were before. Now, it’s just more complicated

Carly Novell@car_nove

Do you want me to take my shoes off when I walk into school as well?

Another student tweeted that the security measures “are a waste of my community’s resources and do nothing to ensure our safety.”

Kyrah Simon@kyrahsimon

These clear backpacks accomplish absolutely nothing. Not every item placed in the bag is visible and there is no possible way to monitor the contents of over 3000 backpacks. It’s great to know that this is where my community puts its resources.

Sheri Kuperman, a parent who has three children at the school, told the Sun-Sentinel that she has no problem with the security but that she is not convinced it will make her children and others any safer.

“We go through metal detectors when we go the airport,” she said, according to the newspaper. “I don’t know if it’s going to stop anything or not.”

After the recent shooting, Anthony was asked on the “Today” show whether he knew he was a hero —  and the teen shook his head.

“He’s a hero in my book,” his attorney said, adding that Anthony is “the real deal.”

This report has been updated.

How Medical Marijuana Reduces Opioid Use; Saves Lives, Money

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ‘INSURANCE JOURNAL’)

(SIMPLY PUT: JEFF SESSIONS AND DONALD TRUMP ARE IDIOTS AND MORONS ON POWER TRIPS)

How Medical Marijuana Reduces Opioid Use; Saves Lives, Money

By  | April 3, 2018

Medical marijuana laws could be a boon to those battling the opioid epidemic, according to researchers who have identified a link between increased access to medical marijuana and a reduction in opioid prescriptions.

The studies suggest medical marijuana laws (MMLs) have helped save and could continue to save thousands of lives and billions of dollars now being lost to opioid addiction.

There is a downside: The promise of MMLs in reducing opioid use shows up thus far in urban areas, but not in rural America.

The marijuana laws have an effect similar to when any replacement for a drug is introduced, say researchers. In this case, marijuana appears to be a substitute for opioids as a pain medication in many cases.

This week the JAMA’s Journal of Internal Medicine published two studies that conclude that medical marijuana (or medical cannabis) laws have the potential to reduce opioid prescriptions. One study looked at Medicare Part D patient data and the other at Medicaid enrollee data.

The Medicare study (Association Between US State Medical Cannabis Laws and Opioid Prescribing in the Medicare Part D Population by Ashley C. Bradford, BA; W. David Bradford, PhD; Amanda Abraham, PhD; and Grace Bagwell Adams, PhD, at the University of Georgia) found that opioid prescriptions fell in states that permit medical marijuana. Prescriptions filled for all opioids decreased by 2.11 million daily doses per year from an average of 23.08 million daily doses per year when a state instituted any medical cannabis law. Prescriptions for all opioids decreased by 3.742 million daily doses per year when medical cannabis dispensaries opened.

A second JAMA Journal study (Association of Medical and Adult-Use Marijuana Laws With Opioid Prescribing for Medicaid Enrollees, by Hefei Wen, PhD, and Jason M. Hockenberry, PhD, Department of Health Management & Policy, University of Kentucky College of Public Health) found that “medical and adult-use marijuana laws have the potential to reduce opioid prescribing for Medicaid enrollees, a segment of population with disproportionately high risk for chronic pain, opioid use disorder, and opioid overdose.” Using Medicaid prescription data for 2011 to 2016, the researchers found lower opioid prescribing rates where there were medical marijuana laws (5.88 percent lower) and adult-use marijuana laws (6.38 percent lower).

One of the MML researchers, Dr. W. David Bradford, discussed his past and recent research into medical marijuana and opioid prescriptions as well as other research at the Workers’ Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) annual symposium last week in Boston.

Among Bradford’s observations: the effect of MMLs on lowering opioid prescribing, while encouraging, is not fairly distributed.

“All of this is happening in urban areas. We can find no benefit, in this or any of our studies in rural America. As is often the case, people in rural sections of the country are getting a little left out from innovations,” Bradford said.

Bradford is the George D. Busbee Chair in Public Policy at the University of Georgia and former director and founder of the Center for Health Economic Policy Studies at the Medical University of South Carolina. He has been a visiting faculty member at Yale Medical School, and a tenured faculty member in the Department of Economics at the University of New Hampshire. Dr. Bradford has over 70 publications.

Bradford and his fellow researchers, including his daughter who is also a professor, looked at whether medical marijuana is being used as a substitute for other pain medications including opioids, as well as the effect this usage has on spending and on opioid mortality.

“We wanted to compare changes in pain medication use for people in states that don’t have medical cannabis and how those changes compare to the changes for people in states with medical cannabis laws,” he said of their first foray into the field.

They considered whether the state allows home cultivation or requires dispensaries. With dispensary-based distribution, it’s a lot easier to have “surety of the supply, a lot easier to get very finely defined hybrids that have the particular mix of cannabinoids,” according to Bradford.

They reviewed Medicare Part D enrollee data from 2010 to 2014 and then later updated this to include 2015 data. The number of states with an MML grew from 15 in 2010 to 24 over these years. They compared physician prescriptions in states with and without an MML for nine drug groupings: anxiety, depression, glaucoma, nausea, pain, psychosis, seizures, sleep disorders and spasticity.

In their analysis, they found that the use of prescription pain drugs fell significantly after a medical marijuana law went into effect. There were 1,230 fewer annual doses for all pain medications for these conditions per physician under all medical marijuana laws. They found 2,338 fewer daily doses per year for dispensary-based laws and 1,193 fewer daily doses per year for home-cultivation-only laws.

In their recent follow-up research, they focused specifically on opioid prescriptions. They found about a nine percent reduction in opioid prescriptions under any MML – but a higher 14 percent reduction in states with dispensaries. There was about a seven percent reduction in home cultivation states.

As Bradford puts it, when MMLs are implemented, use of prescription drugs falls “just as would happen if any effective new drug were approved by the FDA [Federal Drug Administration].”

Bradford and his colleagues did similar research using Medicaid data and came to the same conclusion that MMLs reduce use of prescriptions and opioids.

However, one troubling finding is that nearly all of the effect is happening in counties with more than 50,000 residents. “There was no benefit for rural counties,” he said.

They also calculated the financial impact. The combined 2014 savings to Medicare and Medicaid were $1.04 billion for states that had MMLs. Bradford said this could have been savings of $3.4 billion if all states had an MML.

“So these are nontrivial savings to Medicaid and Medicare – about one and a half percent of prescription spending is possibly diverted away from the programs,” he said, noting that the enrollees are the ones paying for the marijuana, not the payers.

Opioid-Related Deaths

They also have conducted research that is under review on the effect of MMLs on opioid-related deaths, using data on all non-heroin opiate related deaths for all 3,144 counties in the U.S. from 2000 to 2015. For all prescription opioid related deaths, they found: statistically significant reductions in mortality associated with any MML for all years from 2010 to 2015 in all counties together and no statistically significant effects in rural counties. For only non-synthetic opioid related deaths (i.e., no fentanyl) they found statistically significant reductions in mortality associated with any MML and with dispensary-based laws for all years from 2010 to 2015 in all counties together.

“We’re looking at somewhere in the neighborhood of a 20 to 30 percent reduction in mortality over what it would be,” Bradford said.

Bradford referred to a 2014 study by researchers at Albert Einstein Medical School in New York that also found a connection between MML states and a reduction in opioid deaths. This study (Study on the relationship between medical cannabis laws and opioid analgesic overdose deaths) reviewed 1999-2010 data from 23 states with MMLs. The authors compared opioid overdose death rates in states with medical cannabis programs to overdose deaths rates in states with no cannabis laws. They found about a 25 percent reduction, which translated to an estimated 1,729 fewer deaths than expected. The authors excluded opioid deaths from suicide and included overdose deaths related to heroin, since heroin and prescription opioid use are interrelated for some individuals.

“It looks like access to cannabis, when you design the policies appropriately, can save both lives and money,” Bradford told the WCRI audience.

“But again, in rural counties, there is zero estimated effect. We’re not finding any benefit in terms of mortality for the rural counties,” he reiterated.

Federal Marijuana Policy

Currently cannabis is listed in the Controlled Substances Act under Schedule 1, which means that it is a drug along with LSD, peyote heroin and others that have been “deemed to have no medically recognized uses and a high potential for abuse and therefore completely illegal.” It’s the most restrictive category. Physicians cannot prescribe cannabis, people cannot possess it, no one can sell it under federal law.

The view that marijuana has no medically recognized uses was challenged in January of 2017, when the National Academy of Scientific Engineering and Medicine published what Bradford considers a landmark study. The NAS reviewed more than 10,000 peer-reviewed clinical publications to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to draw conclusions regarding the medical application of cannabis.

“What they concluded is that there is indeed conclusive evidence that there are benefits to cannabis for chronic pain in adults, for nausea associated with chemotherapy and for spasticity and seizures. There is moderate evidence for many other conditions,” Bradford said.

The 2017 NAS report is “quite good evidence that cannabis is useful and, of course, what this implies is that a fine reading of the Controlled Substances Act would reschedule cannabis away from Schedule 1 and then to probably a 3 or a 4. That would be a level that physicians could prescribe it and could get involved.”

The Trump Administration has taken a harder line against legalized marijuana than did the Obama Administration, thereby complicating how medical marijuana laws and usage may play out. Currently 29 states and D.C., representing two-thirds of the U.S. population, have some form of medical cannabis law that runs counter to federal policy.

Public opinion on the subject has largely been supportive of legalizing marijuana for medical use. A January Quinnipiac Poll found that 91 percent of Americans support allowing people with their doctor’s assistance to get access to cannabis. The same poll found voters oppose 70 to 23 percent enforcing federal marijuana laws in states that have legalized medical or recreational marijuana.

Workers’ Comp Reimbursement

The workers’ compensation industry has generally been focused on the impact of medical marijuana on employees and safety in the workplace. As Bradford noted, patients, not insurers, are typically the ones now paying for their medical marijuana, even where it is a replacement for an opioid prescription.

There have been several court decisions approving reimbursement by health insurers or self-insured employers but for the most part states have remained silent on the matter of if and when reimbursement by an insurer or workers’ compensation carrier is allowed or required.

However, even in this uncertain legal environment, medical marijuana is gaining traction as an accepted treatment paid for by workers’ compensation, at least anecdotally, according to experts in a recent Claims Journal interview.

Brian Allen, vice president of government affairs for Mitchell, and Mark Pew, senior vice president of PRIUM, a division of Genex Services, said there is some reimbursement for medical marijuana being done on a voluntary basis when it is deemed a reasonable and necessary treatment. “The decision is really based on whether that patient is achieving benefit from it,” Pew said.

Pew said that carriers paying for medical marijuana treatment are not necessarily making it public.

When such cases reach courts, Allen thinks judges will be reluctant to get in the middle of a doctor-patient relationship. “I think the courts are going to defer to the doctors every time,” said Allen.

Pew agrees. “I think any court is probably going to lean towards the anecdotal story of the individual patient and if it’s helping with their pain and it’s reasonable and necessary based on the advice of doctors in that state,” he told Claims Journal. “I would assume that most states are going to come to that same conclusion.”

While marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, the Trump Administration has indicated that marijuana enforcement will be at the discretion of local assistant U.S. attorneys. Allen believes it’s unlikely they will pursue a medical marijuana case, unless there is some “egregious abuse.”

Both agree that for marijuana to become a more widely accepted alternative to opioids, researchers will have to shed light on the drug’s side effects. “They talk about the pluses. We really don’t hear a lot about the minuses, and we know there are some out there,” Allen said.

Pew believes more research needs to be done into the many chemicals within marijuana. “Just saying we’re going to reclassify marijuana or make it legal — it’s much more complicated,” Pew said.

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