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Racked with pain vet turns to medical marijuana, says he got the cold shoulder from the V-A

Pain from service-related neck injury keeps him from sleeping days at a time

KENMORE, N.Y. — From his parent’s dining room table, Jordan Morrison described living on little or no sleep for much of the past 14 years.

“I haven’t slept in two days and what happens is usually I’ll go about three days without sleep and pass out from exhaustion for two or three hours.”

What keeps the 37-year-old former Marine awake is pain that rarely subsides. Much of it stems from a training exercise.

“We were doing a casualty evacuation drill and I had a Marine up on my shoulders. The doctor thinks I leaned too far forward as I was carrying him and popped some discs in my neck and that’s just gone down my back as the years have gone on.”

Medical reports indicate discs in Morrison’s upper back/neck are bulging and that some vertebrae are putting pressure on his spinal cord. 

What he’s left with is extreme pain that radiates up and down his body.

“The leg pain and the head are related because as soon as I start feeling pain in my legs, my head starts cranking away and vice versa,” says Morrison.

Laying down does not help. In fact, the pain gets worse. Morrison says the pain in his legs is “like napalm going off inside them”.

After returning home in 2004, Morrison sought treatment at the Buffalo Veterans Administration Medical Center (VAMC). What he’s received a lot of, is pills.

When 2 On Your Side visited Morrison last week, he showed us two large kitchen garbage bags filled with prescription pill bottles. When unpacked, the bottles covered half of the dining table. Morrison estimates the bottles represent less than 1% of what he’s been prescribed over the 14-year period he’s been treated at the VAMC.

2 On Your Side asked him if any of the medications were effective, Morrison’s answer was quick, “No.”

About a year ago, out of desperation, Morrison turned to the Dent Neurologic Institute. This was care not covered by the V-A, so Morrison paid for it out of his own pocket.

Doctors at Dent recommended medical marijuana, both the non-hallucinogenic CBD oil and vaped THC. 

“It’s the only reason I’ll sleep,” says Morrison. He reports with medical marijuana, his anxiety and depression are reduced and he is able to function more normally and get some sleep.

Marijuana is a complicated issue for veterans. The federal government still considers it illegal. So, V-A doctors cannot recommend it. V-A pharmacies cannot fill prescriptions for it.

But the agency’s policy state plainly that V-A benefits cannot be denied if a patient used recreational or medical marijuana.

Morrison says his access to care has been reduced. 

“The pain clinic there is designed to get you off of pain medications. But they won’t let you in there if you’ve test positive for marijuana,” says Morrison.

And Dent reports difficulty getting V-A medical records for vets that turn to them.  

A Buffalo VAMC spokeswoman says both allegations are false, but even though 2 On Your Side has a signed release from Morrison, the facility refused multiple interview requests to answer specific medical questions.

The young veteran is now seeking care at the Cleveland Clinic. He estimates outside care for medical marijuana and other doctors has cost him at least $20,000. 

He doesn‘t care.

“Right now, I’m just looking for adequate medical care,” says Morrison.

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