Veteran organizations pressuring congress on medical marijuana
Over the last few weeks, U.S. military veterans have been trying to persuade congress to expand VA research into the benefits of medical marijuana.
The charge for marijuana reform is being led mainly by representatives from the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA).
It's no secret that veteran issues of post-traumatic stress disorder and brain injuries have been pushed to the forefront of thought of the general public. Vincent Lawrence, commander-in-chief of VFW, claims that this alone could call for the VA to look into the potential benefits of medical cannabis.
Lawrence went on to say that VA patients who also use marijuana for medical purposes are doing so without regimented care from the VA and therefore it is unregulated. However, he then went on to say, "This is not to say VA providers are opting to ignore this medical treatment, but that there is currently a lack of federal research and understanding of how medical marijuana may or may not treat certain illnesses and injuries, and the way it interacts with other drugs."
This idea is not revolutionary or specific to the VA, Lawrence continued, "There is currently substantial evidence from a comprehensive study by the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academic Press that concludes cannabinoids are effective for treating chronic pain, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, sleep disturbances related to obstructive sleep apnea, multiple sclerosis spasticity symptoms, and fibromyalgia –– all of which are prevalent in the veteran population..."
There are already some bills that have been submitted for the advancement of medical marijuana research--such as the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act which would mandate that the VA conduct trials on the effects of medical marijuana for veterans afflicted with PTSD and chronic pain.
A similar piece of legislation was proposed last year but did not pass a floor vote.
Medical marijuana has also been linked to lowering instances of opioid abuse as well. Lawrence even mentions this before congress explaining, "states that have legalized medical cannabis have also seen a 15-35 percent decrease in opioid overdose and abuse." Rep. Conor Lamb (D-PA) echoed Lawrence's statements in support.
The momentum of medical marijuana in the VA is gaining some bipartisan steam, too. Recently, a similar proposal was brought to the floor by the ranking member on the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs-- Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN) when he said, "The VA is where cannabis should be studied[...] Let's find out the risks, the benefits, the black box warnings and so on. I could not agree more with you there."
Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN)
While it's clear that there is support for medical marijuana within the structure of VA, there is a long way to go before its application is widespread. The positive links between marijuana for medical purposes and veterans dealing with afflictions derived from service are apparent and numbered--and congress is starting to take notice.