WKU Public Radio News Staff
Mon July 14, 2014
Kentucky Lawmakers Consider Ways to Help Veterans Suffering from PTSD, Including Medical Marijuana
Kentucky lawmakers have been discussing the causes of post-traumatic stress disorder in veterans, and how sexual assault in the military plays a factor.
Dr. Mary Sweeney was among a team of physicians from the Robley Rex Veterans Affairs hospital in Louisville who recently testified before a joint Committee on the Military, Veterans Affairs and Public Safety about PTSD treatment efforts.
“Fifty percent of people who experience a rape go on to get PTSD. The numbers are lower for combat. Vietnam veterans, probably about 30 percent at some point in their life. Gulf War veterans, perhaps 10 percent. The numbers are still out in the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.”
Many veterans have lobbied Frankfort in support of medical marijuana as a treatment for their symptoms.
About 18,500 veterans in Kentucky suffer from PTSD. Nationwide, that number is 350,000.
Medical Marijuana for Veterans?
Kentucky lawmakers also heard testimony from those advocating for the legalization of medical marijuana as a way for veterans to cope with the impact of PTSD and physical ailments related to their military service.
Danny Belcher is a Vietnam veteran who uses pot to deal with nightmares about his combat experiences.
“I see the dead enemy hanging in the tree,” Belcher told legislators. “Bodies bumping against me, [not sure if it’s] theirs or ours, if that nightmare gets so bad, I can’t wake up, I realize it’s just a nightmare, I will light that pipe up, I’ll be a criminal, I’ll go back to sleep.”
Committee co-chair Sen. Jim Higdon, a Republican from Lebanon, says that medical marijuana in Kentucky is inevitable, but is unsure when.
“Eventually, it will. Now, is it next year? I don’t know. I can’t answer that.”
Higdon says that the legislature will continue to hold more hearings on the subject throughout the year, and medical testimony will be key in getting more support from his colleagues in the Senate.