Access to MMJ for Veterans Grows, But the Struggle Continues

Marijuana Cannabis Now Magazine

On Memorial Day, we honor those military service members who made the ultimate sacrifice. But for many combat veterans who return from battle with PTSD and debilitating injuries, medical cannabis provides crucial, sometimes life-saving relief. Veteran access to cannabis medicine is better than ever, but there’s still plenty of work to be done to ensure all our veterans can benefit from medical marijuana.


While veterans are not technically barred from access to Veterans Administration health services and programs for using medical marijuana, many other VA rules and regulations prevent access to the medicinal cannabis, especially for patients with limited mobility: the use or possession of marijuana is prohibited at all VA properties — no matter the form — and VA doctors may not prescribe medical marijuana or complete paperwork for state-approved marijuana programs.

And unlike Canada, where reimbursements for medical cannabis went from $400,000 to $20 million in just a few years for veterans, the VA will not pay for medical marijuana prescriptions from any source.

Despite all this, the VA does want folks to discuss marijuana use with their doctors and other providers. VA doctors and clinical staff will record marijuana use in the veterans’ VA medical record along with its impact on the veterans’ treatment plan.

And on the part of veterans, they are now more organized than ever, making the push for access themselves. Just last week the American Legion — which Politico called “one of the nation’s most conservative veterans’ groups” — called on President Trump to allow for marijuana research with vets.

Louis Celli, National Director of veterans affairs and rehabilitation for the American Legion, stressed the group is only advocating for research, but the group’s stance is still representative of a major cultural shift.

“We are not asking for it to be legalized,” Celli said. “There is overwhelming evidence that it has been beneficial for some vets. The difference is that it is not founded in federal research because it has been illegal.”

The organization has 2.4 million members, making it the largest U.S. veterans’ group — giving it major sway on The Hill: they’re approaching the administration through Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.

We reached out to the experts to get their take on the push being made by veterans as of late.

“The voices of veterans are among the most influential in the growing debate about medical cannabis,” said Tom Angell, Chairman of Marijuana Majority. “It’s very, very hard for lawmakers to tell people who were injured serving our country that they deserve to be jailed for following their doctors’ recommendations on how to heal their war wounds.”

Marijuana Policy Project Director of Communications, Mason Tvert, said it’s hard for lawmakers to avoid or ignore the influx of activism on the issue.

“Lawmakers are receiving an increasing volume of correspondence from veterans, and their stories are very compelling,” he said. “Reports regarding medical marijuana benefiting veterans with PTSD are piling up and reaching the point at which they can no longer be ignored.”

At the local level, veterans are organizing on behalf of themselves. In groups like Grow For Vets and Weed for Warriors, they hope to have an impact in helping to save the more than 50 veterans who die each day from suicide and prescription drug overdose.

Veterans are provided with free hemp oil and flowers to help treat their various symptoms. The programs have all experienced rapid growth nationwide after starting in Northern California a few years back to the point that the groups are currently finding corporate sponsors from the cannabis industry starting to come on board.

TELL US, are you a veteran who uses cannabis medicine? How does it help you?
Jimi Devine has been involved in cannabis reform since 2005 and has worked in the Berkeley cannabis industry since 2009 when he moved to California from Lynn, Massachusetts. Currently serving as Staff Writer here at Cannabis Now, you can also find his writings on cannabis products and policy in the San Francisco Chronicle, The Boston Globe, The Hill, The Chronicle of High Education, GreenState.com, Marijuana.com, 7x7 Magazine, and in Ed Rosenthal's most recent book This Bud's for You. Jimi has a BA in Journalism and Media Studies from Franklin Pierce University.

1 Comment

  1. Steven Cummings

    May 30, 2017 at 5:51 am

    Yes…I am a Veteran and have smoked cannabis for a long time…In fact, I was introduced to cannabis in the military initially…I smoked Acapulco Gold the very first time…I felt giddy an’ happy but didn’t recognize the high then the way I do today…about 2 months later I smoked some hash…again I didn’t recognize the high for what it was that I do today…then I got stationed over in the MidEast all of 1971…while there I did get into smoking hash…and a lot of it…grass was hard to find…most of the hash was Afghani Gold Star…made it to London briefly and got some blonde Lebanese…

    That’s just the tip of the iceberg of my cannabis history…but today I use it to relax me…I am a Hep C survivor…if I hadn’t toked during treatment for Hep C I would have died from not eating…

    Steven Cummings
    HM1 USN

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