Since marijuana remains illegal in the eyes of the federal government, most veterans do not have a choice but to keep swallowing dangerous prescription drugs to combat the symptoms of conditions ranging from post-traumatic stress disorder to chronic pain.
Let’s face it — Congress has not exactly rushed in to ensure the nation’s injured soldiers have access to safer alternatives to highly addictive opioids and anxiety medications. In fact, for the past few years, the schizophrenic nature of both chambers has been largely to blame for preventing the passage of a temporary budget amendment designed to give doctors employed at the Department of Veterans Affairs so much as the right to discuss cannabis treatment with their patients.
It is for this reason that the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs recently petitioned VA Secretary David Shulkin in hopes of finally assembling a body of scientific evidence on the efficacy of the cannabis plant. The letter, which was signed by 10 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, urges the VA to take leadership on the medical marijuana issue by initiating the same type of research program that led to major medical advancements, including the creation of the pacemaker and the first successful liver transplant.
Over 90 years ago, Congress approved the creation of the Veterans Health Administration Office of Research and Development in an attempt “to discover knowledge and create innovations that advance health care for veterans and the nation.”
Federal lawmakers now believe the department “is uniquely situated to pursue research on the impact of medical marijuana on veterans suffering from chronic pain and PTSD given its access to world class researchers, the population it serves, and its history of overseeing and producing research resulting in cutting-edge medical treatments.”
This is the first time in American history that lawmakers in Washington D.C. have requested the VA use its scientific arsenal to bring the concept of medical marijuana into the mainstream. The push comes just months after VA Secretary Shulklin told reporters “there may be some evidence” that marijuana is helping a number of veterans. But he then went on to say, “until the time that federal law changes, we are not able to be able to prescribe medical marijuana for conditions that may be helpful.”
Earlier this year, the American Legion, which serves more than 2 million veterans across the United States, petitioned President Donald Trump to eliminate marijuana from its Schedule I classification. The group says “there is overwhelming evidence that [marijuana] has been beneficial for some vets… the difference is that it is not founded in federal research because it has been illegal.”
Trump, however, never issued a response to the Legion’s request. In fact, despite there being significant evidence showing that opioid-related deaths are on the decline in states with legal marijuana on the books, the president has made it a point to never to mention the plant when discussing ways to tackle the national opioid epidemic. Not even after Trump officially declared the opioid crisis a national emergency did he give any indication that the government would at least launch a comprehensive research program to determine whether any of the latest studies carry any weight.
House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Ranking Member Tim Waltz, of Minnesota, released a statement, saying “after hearing from and meeting with veterans and veterans’ advocates from communities across the country, I now know for a fact that research and access to medical marijuana has become a critically important veterans’ issue.”
“At no period of time has research into medical marijuana been as critically important as it is now, as there isn’t a single community in America that hasn’t come face-to-face with our nation’s tragic opioid epidemic. Few populations have been as hurt by the opioid epidemic as our veterans,” he added.
TELL US, do veterans deserve medical cannabis?