In 2017, veterans suffering from various ailments as a result of their service to the country are technically in a better position to access cannabis than at any point in recent history. But, as with every other aspect of the developing cannabis world, the current state of federal affairs continues hinder progress. With veterans, you have a group that not only has to wait for the feds to recognize cannabis as viable medicine, but also has to wait to have access through the medical programs provided to them by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
One place that doesn’t seem to be a roadblock for cannabis at the federal level is the FDA, according to the folks at the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). MAPS has done significant research into effects of MDMA on PTSD, and are now conducting the first FDA- and DEA-approved research into whole plant cannabis. MAPS recently told Forbes they’d enrolled their 30th patient, but their quest to push cannabis research hasn’t been without hiccups.
“We have a long relationship with the FDA — a lot through our MDMA research. They’ve been open to approving research protocols into Schedule I drugs,” Brad Burge, communications director for MAPS, told Forbes. “It’s other regulatory agencies that have been standing in the way.”
In the randomized, triple-blind, placebo-controlled study that MAPS is calling groundbreaking, marijuana is being tested as a pharmacological agent to manage PTSD symptoms in 76 U.S. veterans who experienced trauma while in military service. This is the first controlled clinical trial to test the therapeutic potential of marijuana for treating PTSD and is essential for understanding potential risks and therapeutic benefits of marijuana for PTSD patients.
In the study, participants will be tracked during an initial two-week screening period. In this first stage, they’ll partake in three weeks of marijuana self-administration followed by a two-week period of marijuana abstinence. Then they’ll do it all over again with a different kind of pot. This will all take place in 17 visits over 12 weeks with a six-month follow-up appointment. The researchers will use the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale to measure the impact of the cannabis treatment on the participant’s symptoms.
The marijuana being used in the study was provided to MAPS by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) from their Mississippi-based cannabis farm. NIDA was able to provide three of the four varieties of marijuana requested, they did not have access to a CBD strain with a 1 to 1 of CBD and THC. MAPS had requested a strain with about 12 percent of both.
MAPS also noted the actual cannabis being provided was sufficient to get the ball rolling with the research, but said that “the marijuana provided by NIDA will not be acceptable for future Phase 3 trials.”
The study is funded by a $2.156 million grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Colorado is also the most recent state to add PTSD to its medical marijuana program, joining 23 other states where vets, or anyone diagnosed, already had access.
Just before the state added PTSD in March, one of the top drug war journalists in the country, Phil Smith, noted vets didn’t need to wait. “But making PTSD a qualifying condition would mean that patients would then be eligible for an exemption from the state’s 10 percent tax on recreational marijuana, paying only state and local sales taxes,” Smith wrote.
Also, the nation’s largest veterans group has made good on a promise to Cannabis Now that they would push Congress on medical marijuana. Following the group passing an August resolution supporting medical marijuana Joe Plenzler, media relations director at the American Legion headquarters in D.C, told us in an email, “We are actively engaged with the House and Senate on this important issue.”
Plenzler has stayed firm on the issue, last week telling the New York Times, “We’ve got young men and women with PTSD and traumatic brain injuries coming to us and saying that cannabis works.” Plenzler’s statement came alongside the release of a Legion phone survey where 92 percent of the responding vets said they supported cannabis research and 82 percent wanted it federally legal as a treatment option.
This Veterans Day truly marks a time when more than ever before is being done to help veterans get access to medical cannabis — and they’re doing more than ever before to help themselves get it.
TELL US, do you think veterans should have access to medical marijuana?